Doctors’ properties searched in Anna Nicole Smith investigation

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From LOS ANGELES, California, armed with eight search warrants, police searched the homes and businesses of two of Anna Nicole Smith’s doctors Friday as part of a investigation into the medical treatment she received before her sudden death, officials said.

Anna Nicole Smith was 39 when she died of a lethal combination of drugs in Florida.

The former Playboy Playmate died of an accidental drug overdose at a Florida hotel in February. She was 39.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown said his office launched the investigation March 30 after an autopsy showed that Smith had a large combination of drugs in her system, prescribed in California, that led to her death.

No arrests have been made, Brown said.

Authorities are looking at the prescription and dispensing practices of doctors and pharmacies used by Smith and her associates, Brown told reporters.

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The attorney general refused to provide information on the number of warrants, the names on the warrants or possible charges. He said the warrants were served in Los Angeles and Orange County.

“I’m not going to speculate on who will go to jail and who won’t. But you can be sure that if a judge issues a search warrant to go into someone’s home, there is some serious evidence,” Brown said. “We’re not setting any limits on this investigation.”

“The department will conduct a very fair and thorough investigation and wants to protect the identity of cooperating witnesses,” he added.

Authorities searched the homes of two doctors, a business owned by one of the doctors, four businesses owned by the other doctor and a storage shed used by one of the doctors, two officials familiar with the investigation told CNN.

The sources identified the doctors as Khristine Erochevich, Smith’s psychiatrist, and Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, who has been the target of an investigation by the California Medical Board.

Kapoor, of Studio City, California, prescribed methadone for Smith during her pregnancy with her daughter, Dannielynn, according to Dr. Joshua Perper, Broward County, Florida, medical examiner. The child was born September 7, 2006.

In March, Kapoor’s attorney, Ellyn Garofalo, said, “Dr. Kapoor’s treatment of Ms. Smith was at all times medically sound, and he will continue to cooperate with any formal requests from authorities.”

Howard K. Stern, who was Smith’s live-in companion and attorney, was at Erochevich’s home when law enforcement officials arrived, said Stern’s lawyer, L. Lin Wood.

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Wood said in a written statement that Stern, who arrived in Los Angeles from New York early Friday, was at the home because he had left his dogs there. He didn’t elaborate.

Other agencies aiding the investigation are the California Department of Insurance, Seminole Tribal Police in Florida and the Royal Bahaman Police, Brown said. Smith had been living in the Bahamas with Stern, and is buried there.

According to Brown, justice agents have reviewed more than 100,000 computer images and texts, analyzed patient profiles and pharmacy logs, and interviewed multiple witnesses nationwide and abroad in an effort to confirm or disprove accusations of unethical practices, officials said.

An unresponsive Smith was found in a room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood, Florida, on February 8. She was taken to a hospital but could not be revived. Several prescription medications, in Smith and Stern’s names, were found in the room, law enforcement sources said.
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Perper, the medical examiner, said the medications found in Smith’s system included several prescription drugs, among them three antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs.

Also found in toxicology testing was human growth hormone, Benadryl, Klonopin and chloral hydrate, a sedative, Perper said. That was the lethal component, when mixed with the other drugs, he added.

Perper said the drugs in Smith’s system basically shut down her respiratory and circulatory systems.

The medical examiner said he did not believe that Smith tried to kill herself, as some had suggested, because of the large amount of chloral hydrate remaining in the bottle, and the normal levels of the other medications in her system.

During the autopsy, doctors found evidence that Smith had an abscess on her left buttock that had been perforated by a needle, probably when she took injections of either the growth hormone or vitamin B-12, the medical examiner said.

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The perforation allowed bacteria to get into Smith’s blood, which caused a high fever in the days before her death. She was being treated with Tamiflu and Cipro, one an antiviral medication and the other an antibiotic.

The official autopsy report also noted that Smith suffered from chronic thyroiditis, which can cause “fatigue, depression, sensitivity to cold, weight gain, forgetfulness, muscle weakness, puffy face, dry skin and hair, constipation, muscle cramps, and increased menstrual flow,” according to a Department of Health and Human Services Web site.

Perper said the abscess and a possible case of flu were contributory causes in Smith’s death.

Smith’s son died in September 2006, just days after the birth of Anna Nicole’s daughter, Dannielynn. His death was ruled an accidental overdose of three medications, two of which were the antidepressants Lexapro and Zoloft, said forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht.

Perper said there was no evidence showing that the deaths of the mother and son were related, even though both involved drugs.
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