People Staff
October 09, 2006 12:00 PM


Looking weary, Howard K. Stern admitted that he was far more than Anna Nicole Smith‘s longtime legal representative. He revealed on Larry King Live Sept. 26 that he had loved the actress “for quite some time,” and that he hoped they would someday marry. He also unveiled the name of Smith’s new baby girl: Dannielynn Hope and—contradicting earlier claims made by photographer Larry Birkhead—he addressed the question of who her father is with unwavering conviction. “Based on the timing of it, there shouldn’t be a doubt,” he told King. Stern himself was the “proud father.”

“They had been trying for a while to have a baby,” Stern’s sister Bonnie says of the couple. But their joy at the Sept. 7 arrival of a 6-lb. 9-oz. girl was tempered by grief three days later, when Smith’s son Daniel, 20, died in his mother’s Bahamian hospital room. Stern described how, hours earlier, Daniel had scooped up the girl “like he’d been around babies his whole life.” Later Daniel asked, “‘How come I am so tired?'” said Stern. “I wish I had seen that as some sort of signal.”

The cause of death is not yet known, but some natural causes, foul play and suicide were ruled out by a private pathologist. Early exams showed the antidepressant Lexapro in Daniel’s system, at therapeutic levels; toxicology reports are due within days. Meanwhile Daniel’s body lies in a Nassau funeral home, and Smith, 38, and Stern, 37, who have lived together for three years, says a friend, grieve in the home she bought in August. Despite being so emotional that at times she has been sedated, Smith, said Stern, has found purpose in her daughter: “Through it all, even with all the pain, she has been a great mom.”

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