In a startling revelation, the FBI investigated whether reality TV vixen Anna Nicole Smith was part of a plot to kill her tycoon husband's son, whom she was battling for his late dad's multi-million dollar fortune.
Despite the investigation, prosecutors ultimately decided there was not enough evidence to charge the former Playboy Playmate with any wrongdoing.
Smith's FBI records, obtained exclusively by The Associated Press, indicate the agency investigated Smith in 2000 and 2001 in a murder-for-hire plot targeting E. Pierce Marshall, the son of Smith's late husband who was worth hundreds of millions of dollars at the time of his death.
The younger Marshall died three years ago of natural causes. Smith died in 2007 from a drug overdose.
The documents -- released under the Freedom of Information Act -- depict an investigation going on as the court battled raged over J. Howard Marshall II's huge estate. Vast sections of the 100 pages of released materials, a fraction of Smith's full FBI file, are whited out, and no evidence of her involvement in such a plot is detailed.
There is no indication how authorities became aware of the alleged plot, but FBI agents interviewed Smith on July 3, 2000. When told why she was being questioned, "Smith began crying and denied ever making such plans," the report said.
"Smith adamantly denied ever contemplating such a crime," an agent wrote, and prosecutors eventually agreed the case could not go forward. An April 26, 2001, letter to the FBI from Sally Meloch, an assistant U.S. attorney, said she reviewed the reports but "determined that there is insufficient evidence to establish that there was a murder-for-hire plot by Ms. Smith to kill Pierce Marshall."
Reached at her Los Angeles office on Tuesday, Meloch didn't recall the case, but said, "Any investigations that we didn't proceed with, we couldn't comment on anyway."
An attorney for Smith's estate, Kent Richland, was surprised by the allegations.
"I have not heard anything about that," he told the Associated Press.
An attorney for the Marshall estate, including for the younger Marshall's widow, said he couldn't immediately comment.
Smith was 26 when she wed the 89-year-old Marshall, owner of Great Northern Oil Co., whose wealth was estimated by Forbes to be $550 million in 1992. They met while she was a topless dancer at a Texas strip club.
He died of natural causes in 1995, little more than a year after they married.
The FBI files show a .357 Smith and Wesson revolver was confiscated from Smith's home, along with a 3 1/2-inch stainless-steel knife and, for reasons that were not explained, a black and orange hat described as "Dr. Seuss." All three objects were returned to her about seven months later.
The FBI reviewed tape recordings of phone calls involving Smith during their investigation, though transcripts were not included in the released materials. Among the things that were included were agents' scribblings in spiral-bound notebooks, accounts of Smith's past arrests for drunken driving and battery, and an interview of the younger Marshall.
In a June 27, 2000 interview, Marshall said Smith rarely spent time with his father after their 1994 marriage and said his father complained that she asked for $50,000 to $60,000 twice a week.
The legal fight between Smith and the Marshall estate has bounced around courts for years.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2006 that Smith could pursue her late husband's fortune, overturning an appellate decision, which continues to be fought in California. The money became a factor after Smith's death, too, with her former attorney and confidante Howard K. Stern, her mother, and another boyfriend all fighting over an estate that ultimately will go to her daughter, who is now 3.