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Anna Nicole Smith Dies in Florida; New Orleans Battles Violent Crime Wave

Aired February 8, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone.
We are here, as Larry mentioned, because the city is dealing with a violent crime wave. People are scared. And they want answers, and they want some help -- some remarkable stories tonight of courage of outrage and survival.

We begin, right now, though, with the passing of Anna Nicole Smith. She died this afternoon. She was 39 years old.

Some late video: police removing items from the rooms at the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, where she was staying with a security guard and a nurse.

Not many women have gone from strip club to the Supreme Court, by way of "Playboy," the tabloids, and reality television. But Anna Nicole Smith did. And, this afternoon, she died at a hospital not far from the Hard Rock, which is where we begin, with CNN's John Zarrella.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): It began at the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. Anna Nicole Smith was found unconscious in her hotel room this afternoon by her private nurse. A bodyguard tried to save her.

CHARLIE TIGER, SEMINOLE, FLORIDA, POLICE CHIEF: At 1:45, a bodyguard administered CPR to her.

ZARRELLA: Nine-one-one was called. Police were there within minutes.

TIGER: At approximately 1:45 p.m. today, the Seminole Police Department responded to the Hollywood Hard Rock Hotel in reference to a person needing medical assistance.

The person, later identified as Anna Nicole Smith, was transported by paramedics and transported to Hollywood -- was treated by paramedics and transported to the Hollywood Memorial Hospital.

ZARRELLA: Monica Alvarado was at the hospital when the ambulance arrived.

MONICA ALVARADO, EYEWITNESS: We just came out to get fresh air. And we seen a whole bunch of cops and an ambulance. And a friend of ours tells us that that was Anna Nicole in there. They just moved everybody back. They didn't want nobody there. So, we got pushed back.

ZARRELLA (on camera): So, you couldn't tell whether they were still trying to work on her or anything?

ALVARADO: No. They told us she was dead upon arrival.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): A tragic end to a woman who saw more than her share of tragedy.

Her son Daniel died this past September from a deadly combination of antidepressants and methadone while in the Bahamas. A doctor hired by Anna Nicole said it was accidental. Authorities there say there will be a formal inquiry into his death in March.

But Anna Nicole Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, told Nancy Grace on Headline News that she believes it was not an accident.


VIRGIE ARTHUR, MOTHER OF ANNA NICOLE SMITH: I just know that Danny didn't kill himself. He did not overdose himself.


ZARRELLA: And, at the time, she had a warning for the daughter she called Vickie Lynn.


ARTHUR: Vickie Lynn, you know I love you, always have. And be very careful about who you hang around with, because you may be next.


ZARRELLA: No one knows yet how Anna Nicole Smith died. There will be an autopsy Friday. But, for now, her family takes some solace in the idea of mother and son reuniting.

"There is no doubt that her son loved her," they said in a statement. "They lived out of each other's pockets while he was alive. And now they can finally be together again in heaven."


COOPER: John joins us now.

John, do we know exactly who was with her at the time of her collapse?

ZARRELLA: No, Anderson, we really don't.

All we know is that the -- the nurse apparently found her first. And then the bodyguard was called in at about 2:45 and began to administer the CPR. We do not know anything more than that, who, if anybody, was in the room with her at the time that she collapsed, when -- don't even know when exactly that was. She was unconscious, unresponsive, when she was first found.

COOPER: And I'm assuming the answer is no, but do we know why she had a private nurse with her?

ZARRELLA: No. That is absolutely unclear as well. It may well be that she travelled with a private nurse on occasions, but there are literally no answers, and we did not get any answers today here at the hospital either. We thought there were going to be news conferences by the police, by the paramedics, by the hospital.

But that did not happen, at the request of her family, saying that all questions should be referred to the attorneys. And so the police and the hospital did not, in the end, provide any more details.

COOPER: And, again, I think the answer is no, but do we know the whereabouts of her newborn daughter tonight?

ZARRELLA: No, we do not know that either, Anderson, another one of the questions. And there are so many yet that are left unanswered -- do not know where her newborn daughter is, in whose custody she is tonight, if she's in the state of Florida, don't even know that.

She was apparently not here, Anderson, at the Hard Rock, as far as we know, with Anna Nicole Smith.

COOPER: All right. John Zarrella, thanks very much.

Obviously, the daughter will be now at the center of some sort of legal battle. Already, there are paternity issues on that. We will talk about that ahead.

Even before her reality show, Anna Nicole Smith's life was on public display. It was an open book, and, ultimately, it was tragic.

CNN's Gary Tuchman reports.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She was the stripper and centerfold who went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The woman the world knew as Anna Nicole Smith was born Vickie Lynn Hogan to a single mother in a small Texas town in 1967.


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": It was a tough childhood?




TUCHMAN: At 16, she dropped out of high school and married a chicken fry cook. At 19, she gave birth to a son, Daniel Smith -- in 1992, her big break.


SMITH: There was an ad in the paper for "Playboy"'s Playmates. And I went to the ad and took some pictures. And "Playboy" called me and flew me to Los Angeles, and I was on the March cover of 1992.


TUCHMAN: This was the cover and the moment Anna Nicole Smith became famous. She was named Playmate of the year. Her voluptuous figure caught the eye of Guess jeans, who gave her a contract and a new identity.


SMITH: Anna Nicole came from Guess jeans, Paul Marciano, and me, and one of his friends. We were sitting around coming up with a stage name. And that's where that came from.


TUCHMAN: Movie roles followed, and then controversy.


SMITH: I have never had love like that before. No one has ever loved me and done things for me and respected me and didn't care about what people said about me. I mean, he truly loved me. And I loved him for it.


TUCHMAN: In 1994, the 26-year-old Smith married 89-year-old Texas oil magnate J. Howard Marshall II; 14 months later, Marshall died, leaving an estimated $1.6 billion.

His son battled her over Marshall's fortune. He said she was not one of the rightful heirs. It was a fight that would take her all the way to the Supreme Court. Last year, the justices ruled in her favor, but the case is still being fought in lower courts. And her attorney said today she's never gotten a dime.

As her fame grew, so did her weight. Tired of what she said were all the fat jokes, Smith lost the weight, and became spokeswoman for TrimSpa weight loss pills. Last year, she said she was pregnant, but wouldn't say who the father was, which has led to an ongoing paternity dispute.

And, on September 7 of last year in a hospital in the Bahamas, Smith gave birth to a baby girl. It should have been the happiest time of her life, but just three days later her 20-year-old son collapsed in Smith's hospital room. He died. The coroner she hired says it was from an overdose of methadone and antidepressants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE") HOWARD K. STERN, HUSBAND AND ATTORNEY OF ANNA NICOLE SMITH: Daniel, you know, he is more than a son to her. They're great friends, best friends. And Daniel is her rock. So, everything that she's gone through, Daniel's been there with her. And, honestly, I don't know how we're going to get through this.


TUCHMAN: Five months later, Anna Nicole Smith was dead at 39. Her life was strange. And it was sad.


SMITH: I can't trust anybody. I just -- I can't. I get sued all the time. I can't trust anybody.


TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, New Orleans.


COOPER: Sad end.

With me now are two people who knew Anna Nicole Smith, in New York, a friend, John James, and from Los Angeles, Jennifer Saginor, author of "Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside the Playboy Mansion."

I appreciate both of you being on. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances.

John, you were friends with Anna Nicole Smith. You were an executive producer for the movie "Illegal Aliens," which you finished filming just last year. You were with -- you were with -- you were there at her wedding to Howard K. Stern.

When you first heard news of her death, were you surprised?

JOHN JAMES, FRIEND OF ANNA NICOLE SMITH: I was freaked out. I couldn't believe it. I thought it was the most unbelievable thing I had ever heard. It was from a journalist.

COOPER: To many outsiders, you know, watching from afar, she seemed at times out of control or not fully in charge of all that was happening around her. Is that an accurate perception? Is that the woman you knew?

JAMES: No. It's not the woman I knew.

Just to give you the back story on this, they approached Howard and Anna, looking for something to do. They invested in the movie. They wanted to do a comedy spoof. And everything was going along great. She was on the set. Daniel was involved. It was fun. We were laughing.

And then about September of 2005, when the Supreme Court announced that they were going hear her case, for the last, what, nine, 10 months, 11 months, it's just been one thing after another.

And when I was visiting her with my family in the Bahamas on Labor Day weekend, she's just a -- just a terrific, kind, wonderful person. And she was so great with my kids. And she's -- there's the public persona and the private. And her private persona is very, very different. Her house was immaculate inside.

COOPER: We just heard her saying on an earlier "LARRY KING" broadcast that she couldn't trust people around her. Did you see that? Did she talk about that?

JAMES: I think that I -- she never spoke to me specifically about that, but my wife and her became very close friends. They e- mailed back and forth all the time.

And I think that -- I don't know -- we just were friends. Maybe she realized that I just liked her, and my kids liked her. And she was great to them on the set. And maybe that's why we got along.

COOPER: Jennifer, you met Anna Nicole back in the early '90s through "Playboy." You saw her at the Playboy Mansion. What was she like back then?

JENNIFER SAGINOR, AUTHOR, "PLAYGROUND: A CHILDHOOD LOST INSIDE THE PLAYBOY MANSION": Back then, she was really -- I remember coming home from college, and everyone was talking about this really hot woman. And she was sort of new on the scene. And I was just sort of surprised, because she was sort of -- she sort of broke the mold of what I had been used to seeing, these -- she was very voluptuous, and just the way she was sort of this throwback to the '50s pinup girl type.

And she was -- her personality, I think, is really what drew a lot of people to her. She was so down to earth and friendly.


SAGINOR: She was like -- had this country girl sort of...

COOPER: Because a lot of women become, you know, "Playboy" Playmates, but they don't end up with long careers, or certainly not in the spotlight. What do you think it was that separated Anna Nicole Smith?

SAGINOR: It's her -- for sure, her personality. I think so.

I mean, and also, I mean, she really did have that -- I mean, that -- she did resemble Marilyn Monroe in many ways, just her physique and her -- just that whole -- she did have that glamorous, voluptuous sort of appeal to her, and whereas most -- during that time, especially, all these supermodels were super skinny. And it was that whole heroin chic look.

And I think that her personality, and vibrant, and just being such that country girl , really, it was refreshing to Hollywood. I think so. COOPER: John, knowing what you know about her, the contact you had, what do you think happened to her?

JAMES: I can't -- I don't know. I know she was very, very, very upset with Daniel's loss.

I spoke to her probably 10 days ago. And she was still upset. She was in a hotel room in Florida, upset about the fact that she couldn't leave the hotel, because everybody would scream, "Anna, Anna, Anna," and then there would be a big scene.

I don't know. I'm not going to speculate on that. I just -- we will miss her as a friend.

COOPER: Well, John, again, I'm sorry for your loss.

And -- and, Jennifer Saginor, appreciate you talking today.

Thank you very much, both of you. Appreciate it.

In a moment: what doctors will be looking, as they try to determine what killed Anna Nicole Smith. Forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht will join us -- he did the autopsy on her son -- along with 360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Also, more on the legal soap opera that outlives the woman at the center of it.


COOPER (voice-over): Paternity battles, inheritance hassles, from Houston to Hollywood, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, can you let us through?

COOPER: What a long, strange trip it's been, and why it isn't over yet.

And, from small-town Texas to big-time celebrity, a life touched by turmoil, tragedy, money, and more -- Anna Nicole's ups and downs.

SMITH: And, if I ever record an album...

COOPER: Next on 360.




KING: All right. Well, at least do us one favor. We will pull the camera back a little. Stand up and let's see how you look.


KING: Let's pull the camera back a little.

SMITH: All right.


SMITH (singing): Da, da, da, da, da, da.



COOPER: Well, that was Anna Nicole Smith showing off her dramatic weight loss on "LARRY KING LIVE" back in 2004. It could be days or weeks before we know if that weight loss or something else contributed to her sudden death. Either way, it was clearly a big part of her life.

360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta reports.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A public life and a well-known health history -- of all Anna Nicole Smith's ups and downs, the most famous was with her weight. At 5 foot, 11 inches, she weighed just 140 pounds as a "Playboy" Playmate in 1992. Over the years, she reached a personal record high of 224 pounds.


KING: Do you know why you put on weight? Do you know why, yourself?

SMITH: Yes, I do.

KING: Was it due to depression?

SMITH: It was the depression from reliving the trials...

KING: Yes.

SMITH: ... from -- from my husband, twice. That's why I got fat twice. And nobody understands that. Nobody cares, because they think I'm a gold digger.

And it's not true. I loved my husband, and I had to relive that over twice. I had to keep reliving this court thing. You know, it depressed me. It depressed me to hear the awful things that I had to hear.


GUPTA: In 2003, she shed 69 pounds, becoming a spokesperson for the weight-loss supplement TrimSpa.

At that time the supplement contained ephedra, a drug linked to high blood pressure, heart problems, strokes and seizures. The next year, the FDA banned ephedra, and it was taken out of TrimSpa products.

This past September, Anna Nicole had a C-section, delivering her baby girl in Nassau. And, then, three days later, her 20-year-old son died in her hospital room. A month later, she was back in the same hospital with pneumonia. The emotional stress had to be tremendous.

And now, of course, her sudden death leaves even more medical questions yet to be answered.


COOPER: Well, Sanjay, as a certified medical investigator, what are the top possible causes of death?

GUPTA: Well, think you would certainly have to think about the heart being number one, two and three, most likely. Certainly, a young person, a relatively young person, with a sudden collapse like this, you have to think about the heart.

Also, you know, she had the C-section. She had some complications after that. Pulmonary embolism comes up to the list a little bit, because of that as well. That's a blood clot, as you know, Anderson, that can travel to your lungs. It can cause death as well.

Medicine interactions -- you know, either taking too much of a medication or taking medications in combinations that can be lethal.

Infection -- she had this fever that you keep hearing about last night. And she had this nurse traveling with her. Had she been sick? We don't know. It's a little bit speculation at this point.

Blood loss -- unlikely, because nothing was reported in her hotel room at the time.

COOPER: I want to bring in Dr. Cyril Wecht, who did an autopsy on -- on Daniel, Anna Nicole Smith's son.

Dr. Wecht, what's your initial impression of what you have heard of what went on? As a doctor, what would you be investigating?

DR. CYRIL WECHT, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Well, as a forensic pathologist, the things that can produce sudden, unexpected death in a seemingly healthy young adult are very limited.

There are a lot of things that can make you sick, but not many things that can produce death. The most likely would be something in the heart producing a cardiac dysrhythmia. And that conduction, mechanism defect, could be precipitated by viral myocarditis, infection of the heart muscle.

It could be a heart attack. She's 39. She was very obese, as we have heard. She could have deposited a great deal of cholesterol in the coronary arteries. I did a 34-year-old guy last week who died, no known cardiac history, and he had 95 percent occlusion of a major coronary artery.

A pulmonary embolism -- remember, she had that C-section. The uterus could still be heavy and boggy. About 10 percent of pulmonary emboli emanate from the pelvic region, passing up to the lung.

She was known to have a fever at this time. She's had pneumonia in the past. She could be one of those individuals susceptible to a fulminant viral pneumonitis. And, then, it could be a drug overdose.


WECHT: It could be pure drugs or it could be drugs related to a cardiac dysrhythmia.

COOPER: And how quickly will any of that be able to be determined? I mean, will one be able to be, you know, ruled out immediately, if the autopsy is tomorrow? Will it take days or weeks to find out what drugs were in her system?

WECHT: Well, they could find something of a definitive nature tomorrow, such as a pulmonary embolism.

And the other things, even the viral pneumonia and viral myocarditis, those would require microscopic examination of tissues. And that's going to take several days. And you have got the weekend coming up, remember, after tomorrow.

If it's in the realm of toxicology, I predict that could be one to two weeks, because they will do the test meticulously. They probably will duplicate them, to make sure that they have been validated and so on.

I think that there will be some initial pronouncements tomorrow, upon conclusion of the autopsy, saying that certain things have been ruled out, a stroke, a heart attack, and so on. But I believe that you will not have a definitive answer for about a week to two.

I also believe that, ultimately, you will have a definitive answer. I do not believe this is going to remain a medical mystery, after all the tests and analyses have been performed.

COOPER: Dr. Wecht, at the request of Anna Nicole Smith, you did an autopsy on her son, Daniel. How long did it take you to find out what ultimately caused his death? And what did you finally determine?

WECHT: Well, upon completion of the autopsy and discussion with the pathologist who had done the first autopsy, frankly, in my mind, at that time, I ruled out everything, in terms of a natural decease process, anything of a traumatic nature, anything involving possibility of foul play.

And I felt, certainly, that it was a matter of a toxicological death. It was necessary, obviously, to have the tests performed. And, once the results came back, then, there wasn't anything brilliant or profound to conclude that the death was attributable to a combination of methadone and two antidepressants. I also believe that those drugs, which are known to have the specific propensity to precipitate a cardiac dysrhythmia, I think that the drugs in Daniel Smith's case did exactly that, and that is why that boy died so suddenly and seemingly inexplicably at the time.

So, there's no question, in the Daniel Smith case, in my mind, as to the cause of death. An interesting thing, Anderson, is whether or not there is anything of a congenital nature, anything, in terms of a -- some -- some chromosomal defect, that has been passed from mother to son, with the son succumbing first, and the mother, somewhat ironically, later.

That is something that is going to have to be ruled out through very thorough examinations -- too bad that the cardiological studies were not able to be performed in the cases of Daniel Smith, and, to my knowledge, with Anna Nicole, following Daniel's death, because that might have revealed some things with a serial electrocardiogram, a Holter monitor, where they hook you up, and they get tracings 24 hours a day.

COOPER: Right.

WECHT: We might have learned something that would have saved her life.

COOPER: And, Dr. Wecht, I know you anticipate still having to testify in the inquest, which is going to probably, in all likelihood, still take place at the end of March, still in the Bahamas, an inquest, an official inquest, into the cause of Daniel's death.

Sanjay, do we know anything about why Anna Nicole Smith would have had a private nurse with her?


You know, that's something that's been a bit murky. I have been sort of looking into that all day long. We do know she had this question of a fever last night. So, it sounded like she would been ill for some time. But, obviously, she was at a hotel. She was away from her own home. So, she was able to get around.

I don't even know if this was her private nurse that traveled with her, if this was a nurse from the hotel that was called because she was not feeling well. So, it is a little bit unclear at this time -- Anderson.

COOPER: Dr. Wecht, I assume you don't, but do you have any information about why she would have a nurse with her?

WECHT: No. No, I do not have any information.

And I think that's -- there could prove to be some clinical relevance in trying to understand exactly what was troubling her. There are some very fascinating things about this, from the standpoint of the potential pathological processes, even as Dr. Gupta mentioned before, historically, the pneumonia of a couple of months or so ago. Young people don't usually develop pneumonia with that kind of frequency, especially if you're in the sunny Bahamas, and not living up here in the north, where we are.


WECHT: So, you know, there are some things to be learned. And we shall learn about them soon. But I don't believe that much is going to be disclosed tomorrow, following the autopsy.

COOPER: Dr. Cyril Wecht, we appreciate your expertise.

And, Sanjay, thanks very much.

WECHT: Thank you.


COOPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

You know, there are also, of course, the legal questions, beyond the medical questions, from the fight over her late husband's oil fortunes to the paternity of her baby daughter. Our legal experts will weigh in on those battles in a moment.

And later: a stunning headline out of Iraq, a major raid by U.S. forces, an arrest of an Iraqi official. We will have all that and more from Baghdad ahead.



SMITH: He asked me, could I see him the following day? And I told him that I had to work. And he -- he gave me an envelope. And I was back with him the following day. And we have been together for many years.

KING: How much older was he?

SMITH: He was -- I was 23, I believe, and he was 86.


COOPER: That was Anna Nicole Smith talking about her late husband, oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, on "LARRY KING LIVE."

Smith's legal fight over Marshall's estimated $1.6 billion estate made it all the way to the Supreme Court. The case is not over. And neither is the battle over the paternity of Smith's 5-month-old daughter.

Joining us now with more on Smith's legal woes, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and Anna Nicole's former attorney Lenard Leeds.

Guys, thanks for being with us.

Jeffrey, some late word tonight that there's an emergency custody hearing set for tomorrow. Details are a bit sketchy. Does the fact of it surprise you?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Not at all, because, I mean, we're talking about a 4-month-old baby. I mean, this is not an abstract problem. This is a -- a -- a child. We don't know where the child is tonight. Somebody needs to care for her.

And, you know, there are so many issues that are unclear. Let me just give you three of them. Does she have a will? Was she really married to Howard K. Stern? And who is the father of this child? All of those issues have to get before a court. And tomorrow will undoubtedly be the start.

COOPER: Well, let's focus right now on the child. I mean, potentially, besides the human aspect of who should raise this child, whoever has access to the child, whoever is raising the child has access to whatever moneys the child inherits, which is potentially tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, correct?

LEEDS: That's accurate. In fact, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the federal bankruptcy court, and initially, the court had awarded Anne Nicole Smith over $400 million. That was reduced to approximately 80 million, but it's not clear what the final result will be, but it's a lot of money.

COOPER: And Jeffrey, forgive me, I haven't been following this case perhaps as closely as some cases, but what is the paternity issue? This man who says they got married even though it's questionable over whether it was a legal marriage in the Bahamas. Her, I guess, one-time attorney, Howard Stern, who has been living with her and been the guy -- you know, the public face of her for a long time. He claims to be the father, but then there's another guy, Larry Birkhead, right?

TOOBIN: Right. And those two seemed to be the leading candidates, oddly. And there's lots of odd things in this story.

Both Anne Nicole Smith and her supposed husband, Howard K. -- Howard Stern, did not agree to take a DNA test, whereas the boyfriend, Birkhead, he kept insisting, "I want a DNA test. I want a DNA test." So these are the people, I think, who will be in court tomorrow. These representatives of these two men to start sorting out...

COOPER: Can they be forced to -- can they be forced to take a DNA test?

TOOBIN: They can. Absolutely. No question. And certainly they will be, because this is so important because, first of all, someone has to care for this child. And also there is the access to this fortune at stake, and you know, the blood relations are going to be critical.

LEEDS: You know, there's going to be an issue as to -- as to where jurisdiction lies, because I don't know if the baby is in the Bahamas or Florida or California, and it may be based on the state that the baby is physically present at this time. So there are lots of issues to be determined. And clearly, the blood test or the DNA test is going to be dispositive of that issue.

COOPER: And I mean, there are -- this is going to be tied up in court for a long, long time. Lenard, let's talk about the estate. You talked about potentially the kind of money there is. Where does it lie now?

LEEDS: Well, what happens is the Supreme Court remanded it back to the California bankruptcy court. Remember, there had been two issues. The state court in Texas said that Anne Nicole was entitled to nothing.

There had been an irrevocable trust prior to her marriage, and then she filed for bankruptcy in California and to everyone's surprise, the court took jurisdiction over the estate. And then what happened is we had two different results, and so the Supreme Court said the federal court properly had jurisdiction and remanded it back to the California court for further proceedings.

That's where it stands now.

TOOBIN: And Anderson, the complexity of this is so enormous that, you know, when an individual dies and a person who's a party to a lawsuit, that person's estate, their heirs become the heirs, the people who control the lawsuit.

Well, who is in charge of this lawsuit now? We don't know, because we don't know if she's married. We don't know if she has a will. And if it's simply her daughter, someone has to be appointed to be her guardian and thus take control of the litigation and all that money.

So all of that will be fiercely contested, and we don't even know what state the litigation will be in.

LEEDS: You know, the litigation has been ongoing for approximately 12 years, and it just seems like it's going to go on and on. There's no end to this. This is the story that won't go away.

COOPER: Well, for a woman who's been surrounded by attorneys for the last, you know, decade, if she doesn't have a will, those attorneys did not, you know, at least the ones representing her most recently, did not do a very good job, if they allowed her to go around without a will.

But we've got to leave it there. Jeffrey Toobin and Lenard Leeds, you guys, appreciate your expertise. We're going to have more on the Anne Nicole Smith story at the top of the 11 p.m. hour.

Straight ahead in this hour, we're going to take you to Iraq, a top official in the ministry responsible for the health and welfare of the Iraqi people is under arrest. We're going to have a live update about his possible connections to sectarian militias. CNN's Michael Ware will bring us that.

Also tonight, a new tactic to stop the rising murder rate in New Orleans. We'll take you along on a ride with an elite police group here called the Jump Out Boys when 360 continues.


COOPER: It was an especially bloody day in Iraq. Insurgent attacks and a coalition air strike left more an a hundred people dead.

Also today, U.S. and Iraqi forces raided an Iraq health ministry complex in central Baghdad, arresting the deputy health minister. The minister is also a senior member of a political group loyal to a radical Shia cleric.

CNN's Michael Ware joins us live from Baghdad with details.

Michael, is this a big deal? What does it mean?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a big deal, Anderson, for many, many reasons.

For a start, this was an operation where we saw the use of the Iraqi Special Forces. This is a contentious group, very well trained unit. However, they answer to the American military and not to this government. So this government has no control over what these men do.

And then what happens? All of a sudden, without warning, according to the Iraqi Health Ministry, these special forces and their American Green Beret counterparts show up at the Ministry of Health complex, storm inside and take away the deputy health minister.

Now, this is not an arrest by the Iraqi government. This is an arrest or a detaining by the U.S. military. So some people are seeing this as an affront upon the government's sovereignty.

And also this is one of Muqtada al-Sadr's man, the rebel anti- American cleric, or as the military describes him, a rogue member of his faction. Either way, this is an assault on Muqtada, and it's certainly an assault on the external players from Iran who back Muqtada and his elements.

COOPER: So, do you think the prime minister, al-Maliki, knew it was coming?

WARE: Well, that's what we're waiting to find out. Certainly, the Iraqi health minister, obviously, a Muqtada loyalist like everyone in that ministry -- and bear in mind, Anderson, this government is just a coalition of different militias. And they sat back and carved up the ministries, and one of the four that Muqtada got was health. So essentially, the health ministry is run by this militia. So, you know, this is significant in that regard.

What are they going do about it? Not a great deal. They're not going take to the streets in armed struggle to retrieve this guy. They're much, much smarter than that. We don't expect to see that coming into play.

COOPER: So is this part of the new strategy? Is this a sign the new strategy is working? All things that will be playing out in the next couple of days. Michael Ware from Baghdad.

Michael, thanks.

Here in New Orleans the battle is against crime. Tonight, hot pursuit, stopping suspects in their tracks. We'll take you on the hunt.

Plus the pride of the city, an 83-year-old man rebuilding his home by himself. A little bit of help from friends over the last couple of months. We met up again with Herbert Getridge in the Lower Ninth Ward when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, an unwelcome distinction brings us to New Orleans tonight. The city is now a hotbed of violent crime. A lot of good people live here, but far too many are dying here: 20 killings so far this year.

People say they have had enough. That's what the residents tell us. They say the criminal justice system is broken, and we've been here listening to their stories. And we're going to be devoting most of the next hour to telling you those stories.

The sad truth is you can get away with murder in New Orleans. In fact, the system is so overloaded, you might not even be charged.

The story from CNN's Randi Kaye.



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Desiree Watson Jones has had enough of the crime, the killing and criminals walking free.

DESIREE WATSON JONES, MOTHER OF MURDER VICTIM: I got a phone call and said, "Come, your son just got killed."

KAYE: It was 1 a.m.

JONES: My son was killed right on this street here.

KAYE: Thirty-year-old Yoshia Watson, soon to be married and the father of a 5-year-old boy, had been shot once in the head. There were witnesses, so why weren't they talking?

JONES: The guy walked up to me and said, "I seen the whole thing."

I said, "You seen the whole thing? Are you going to tell the police?" "I'll talk to you later. I don't want to get involved in that."

KAYE: Police eventually arrested Ivory Harris, street name "B. Stupid". By law prosecutor had just 60 days to charge him. Prosecutors couldn't find a witness to talk, and Harris walked.

CRAIG FAMULARO, PROSECUTOR: You think you've got the right person and you can make a case, and you might have some physical evidence to tie him to the scene, but you need that essential witness.

KAYE: Criminals call it misdemeanor murder: scare the witnesses into signs until 60 days is up.

(on camera) Of all the murder suspects arrested last year, the D.A.'s office didn't charge nearly half of them. Prosecutors say 46 percent of the cases had to be thrown out and the suspects freed.

In 90 percent of those cases, the witnesses refused to testify.

(voice-over) A New Orleans judge says last year the court released more than 3,000 violent and nonviolent alleged offenders combined. He predicts 7,000 will walk this year because the justice system is still so overwhelmed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So New Orleans is...


KAYE: Pastor John Raphael was a police officer here for 15 years, before God came calling.

(on camera) What are witnesses so concerned about? Why are they running?

PASTOR JOHN RAPHAEL, NEW HOPE CHURCH: There's a fear, not only of the person who committed the crime coming back on -- to you with some kind of retaliation. We've had witnesses who were victimized who became homicide victims. Either because the person thought they were going to testify against them or they had already made plans to testify, and so that fear is legitimate.

KAYE (voice-over): Yoshia Watson's mother said says it's time residents respect life enough to come forward.

JONES: I don't think that it's fair for no one not to come forward.

KAYE: Especially because the suspect, once released, may kill again.

Since Ivory Harris' release, he's become a suspect in three murders in Houston, and today he's back in jail, charged with second- degree murder in a New Orleans case. Harris has pleaded not guilty. But this time, prosecutors say they have a witness willing to talk.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: That was Randi Kaye. More from New Orleans coming up, including the story of a man who's been fighting the good fight in the Crescent City for half a century.


COOPER (voice-over): He's just one man, but what a guy.



COOPER: Rebuilding his corner of New Orleans, the city he loves, as the cycle of violence here continues. 360 next.


COOPER: And that is a shot of the French Quarter tonight. It is crowded, tourists visiting. Very much alive, that part of the city.

And I've got to tell you, the French Quarter is cleaner than I have ever seen it in my entire life. They've hired a new company. There are guys out there all day long, literally scrubbing the streets. Look at those streets. You don't see any garbage in them. They clean them a couple times a day. Shop keepers there want everyone to know they are open for business, and they want visitors to come and it is largely safe in the French Quarter.

A lot of police presence there, a lot of good times being had. A deceptive picture, of course, because much of the city still remains far from normal. A lot of people here are still waiting for help, for help that has not yet come. Herbert Getridge is not, however. We told you his story before, and it's an extraordinary one.

In 1950 this lifelong resident of New Orleans built his home in the Lower Ninth Ward. It was destroyed by Katrina, but he moved back, determined to rebuild, determined to do it on his own terms. When we told you his story before, a lot of viewers pitched in to help. They've sent stuff to him.

We talked to Herbert Getridge. I talked to him earlier tonight.


COOPER: So, Herbert, we took a tour of your house. You seem to be making some progress. How's it going?

GETRIDGE: It's going pretty good as far as I'm concerned. I mean, I came from a mighty long way.

COOPER: You came a long way?

GETRIDGE: Yes, we came a long way.

COOPER: What you started what was there? GETRIDGE: When I started, the house was a shambles. It was just messed up, period. We had to gut the whole thing out. We had to de- mud our house to start with, wheelbarrows and wheelbarrows of mud and then all the broken up furniture and stuff. We had to get that out of there.

Then we pressure washed it. We sprayed it with mold and went back and sprayed it again. Then we had to go through the trouble of knocking out the balance of the plaster that was left hanging on the walls.

COOPER: And in terms of insurance money, did you get a lot of help from insurance?

GETRIDGE: The insurance, I'll tell you like I told Charlie the last time I seen him. If I did it to the flood insurance, I had no trouble with them. But the homeowners, the homeowners wanted to put everything on the floodwaters.

COOPER: Oh, really?

GETRIDGE: They didn't want to peer out from the wind and the rain.

COOPER: We've been hearing that a lot.

GETRIDGE: That's what they did.

COOPER: And is there anyone else around in your neighborhood?

GETRIDGE: In my neighborhood right now, there's only one family about, I would say, about a block or two blocks from me. This is the guy -- I can't call his name, but he was the one running around during the flood with his boat, taking people off the top of houses.

COOPER: And I know last time you were on the program you talked about some of the things you needed, and I know some of our viewers sent you some stuff.

GETRIDGE: I've gotten quite a bit of response since then. People calling on the telephone, asking me what I needed. Some people sending gift cards.

COOPER: It's got to be a nice feeling.

GETRIDGE: Cash, check or two, one or two cash checks. And whole gobs of people coming, wanting to put furniture in my house, such as washers and dryers and the cabinets in the kitchen. This is what I need to get the old lady back home.

COOPER: To get your old lady back home.

GETRIDGE: Yes, yes.

COOPER: Do you call her your old lady? GETRIDGE: Yes, that's what she is. My old lady. She's been my old lady for 67 years. I can't call her anything but that. That's the old lady, my little girl.

COOPER: So when do you think you'll get her back here?

GETRIDGE: I'm hoping to get my wife back home in about three or four weeks from now.

COOPER: That's great.

GETRIDGE: If everybody -- if everybody does what they say they're going to do, the people that's been calling me, I can get home in three or four weeks.

COOPER: So three weeks from now, you think, if we come back, do you think we'll see your old lady?

GETRIDGE: Oh, yes. In three to four weeks I'm hoping, like I told you just now, if everybody does what they're supposed to do or what they said they were going to do toward my house, my wife will be back here in about three or four beaks.

COOPER: Well, I wish you luck. I hope it happens.

GETRIDGE: Thank you so much.

COOPER: I hope to see you.

GETRIDGE: Good deal.

COOPER: All right. Take care.

GETRIDGE: OK. You guys be good.

COOPER: Actually, wait. Hold on. This is what happened last time, you walked off right before. We need to get your mic off there.

GETRIDGE: Uh-oh. I sure did. I remember that.


COOPER: That is Herbert Getridge. We'll keep checking up on him. Let's hope his old lady gets -- gets to come back here soon.

Our "Shot of the Day" is coming up, a race against time to rescue a cold and frightened cat from an icy stream. Yikes!

First Joe Johns joins with us a 360 news and business bulletin -- Joe


An about face today from a Marine who pleaded guilty in the murder of an Iraqi man. Corporal Trent Thomas withdrew his plea as he faced a judge for sentencing in the April 2006 killing of a 52-year- old man in a village west of Baghdad.

Today he told his attorneys that he was following orders when it happened and that he hasn't done anything wrong. Thomas will now stand trial. If convicted, he could face life in prison, a reduction in rank and a dishonorable discharge.

On Wall Street, stocks fell today. The Dow Jones lost 35 points. The NASDAQ shed seven, and the S&P closed down almost five points.

More cuts at Kodak. The picture-taking pioneer announced today that it will eliminate another 3,000 jobs, bringing its planned tally of layoffs to somewhere between 28,000 and 30,000. By year end, Kodak's workforce will be less than half of what it was just three years ago.

And in upstate New York, several towns are buried under snow, lots of it. Parts of Oswego County already have seen almost seven feet of snow, and the National Weather Service says it's not over yet. White-out conditions are making travel dangerous, roads are shut down and many schools are closed -- Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. Unbelievable. So much snow already.

Joe, winter weather provided a chilly backdrop for a daring rescue in Pennsylvania today. It's our "Shot of the Day". Take a look at this.

Rescue crews in Johnstown rushed to save a stranded cat, trapped in a frozen creek. The fighting feline struggled to get his footing on the slippery surface. More than once, the cat fell into the icy water. Icicles hung from its fur. It didn't give up. The cat tried to scale the flood control wall surrounding the creek, but they were just too steep to climb to or jump.

Finally, a firefighter was able to catch the cat in the net there and rescue the cat, and we are told the cat is doing a-OK.

Still to come tonight, more details on the death of Anne Nicole Smith and plus 24 hours here on the streets of New Orleans. People trying to live through a crime wave. What's being done to stop it? We're searching for answers, ahead on 360.



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