Lisa RoseJPI
Siobhan Morrissey
November 19, 2007 05:30 PM

The long-delayed inquest into the mysterious death of Anna Nicole Smith‘s son finally began Monday in the Bahamas.

Howard K. Stern, former lawyer and confidante to Anna Nicole, made a brief appearance on the stand.

“Howard identified the body and how close he was to it,” Nassau attorney Godfrey Pro Pinder, tells PEOPLE. Stern likely will be called to provide more in-depth testimony later, says Pinder, who represents another witness in the case.

Daniel Smith died in Doctors Hospital on September 10, 2006. He and Stern had been visiting Anna Nicole, who had just given birth to a daughter three days earlier. Of the three who spent the night in that hospital room, only Stern is alive. Anna Nicole died five months after her son, on February 8.

According to Pinder, four witnesses testified Monday In addition to Stern, a criminal records officer entered autopsy photos into evidence, an official from the Bahamian immigration department described Daniel’s demeanor when he arrived at Lyden Pindling International Airport in New Providence the night before his death, and an anesthesiologist from Doctors Hospital who attempted to revive Daniel.

Inquest Postponed Three Times

A coroner’s inquest into the death has been postponed three times, and three different magistrates have handled the case to date.

Initially slated to begin in October 2006, the case became so controversial that it led to a shake-up of the courts and a decision by the Bahamian Supreme Court Chief Justice to disband the coroner’s court.

Chief Magistrate Roger Gomez took the case over from former Coroner Linda Virgill and prepared to begin the inquest last March.

That got delayed when Stern objected to the makeup of the jury when he could not pose questions to the seven-member panel during the selection process.

Now the case is before Magistrate William Campbell. After seating a jury last month, the case was again delayed due to Hurricane Noel.

Some three dozen witnesses may be called to testify, including Larry Birkhead, who fought Stern in the courts in the United States and in the Bahamas to prove he is the father of Anna Nicole’s daughter, Dannielynn.

Another scheduled witness is Pinder’s client: South Carolina developer Gaither Ben Thompson, who is battling Stern over ownership of the million-dollar Bahamian home the attorney shared with Anna Nicole before her death last February.

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