A celebrity is dead, in bizarre and appalling circumstances. An array of personal advisers and doctors are held responsible, amid claims they fuelled a dangerous prescription drug addiction. Police investigate. The media scents blood. Sound familiar?
Michael Jackson may be stealing the headlines, but as investigators continue to probe his final hours, LA's courts are about to consider the eerily-similar case of another eccentric public figure who met with a sticky end: Anna Nicole Smith.
Prosecutors investigating how the Playboy model and reality TV star came to choke on her own vomit in a Florida hotel, with 11 prescription drugs in her system, have now charged her already-accused attorney, Howard Stern, with five more felonies related to her death. He is scheduled to appear in court next month along with Ms Smith's former doctor, Sandeep Kapoor, and a psychiatrist, Khristine Eroshevich. They each deny multiple counts of "repeatedly and excessively" supplying their wealthy client with painkillers and sedatives.
More than 200 pages of search warrants unsealed in recent days have added ugly twists to the already sordid tale, revealing that police suspect both Dr Kapoor and Ms Eroshevich of being involved in sexual relationships with Ms Smith, who died in February 2007 at the age of 39. The affidavits include a photo showing Ms Smith and Ms Eroshevich naked and embracing in a bathtub somewhere in the Bahamas, the country Ms Smith had made her home following the death of her elderly oil-billionaire husband, Howard Marshall. They also contain an account of a video that shows Dr Kapoor and Ms Smith canoodling in a nightclub.
However, it is the evidence related to the drugs that Dr Kapoor and Ms Eroshevich apparently helped her procure which is perhaps most devastating. One pharmacist was so concerned by a request for a combination of powerful drugs that he recalled thinking, "They are going to kill her with this". He refused to supply a prescription that might facilitate "pharmaceutical suicide".
Prosecutors intend to charge Dr Kapoor, Ms Eroshevich and Mr Stern with fraudulently obtaining prescriptions and knowingly supplying controlled substances to an addict. Several of the medications in Ms Smith's system when she died were prescribed not to her but to the three defendants.
All three deny the charges against them, which will be outlined fully in a preliminary hearing in Los Angeles scheduled for 5 October.
Born Vickie Lynn Marshall, Ms Smith became famous in 1994 after marrying the Texan billionaire Howard Marshall, whom she'd met while working at a strip club. She was 26 and he was 89. When he died 14 months later, her fight for his inheritance reached the US Supreme Court.
Ms Smith's death sparked another inheritance battle over the paternity of her daughter, Dannielynn, born in 2006. Both Mr Stern and Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt, initially claimed to be the father. However, DNA tests showed that a photojournalist called Larry Birkhead had fathered the child.Reuse content