MIAMI – Embalmers took on the task of preserving Anna Nicole Smith’s body Saturday in a high-security suite at the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office.

“They did a good job, and the body’s able to be viewed,” Broward Medical Examiner Joshua Perper said. “She will look virtually like she looked in real life.”

The move comes after days of unresolved court fights over who would get Smith’s body for burial. Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin ruled on Friday that embalming could proceed.

Perper had argued that further delays would cause Smith’s body to deteriorate and preclude a viewing.

Two embalmers from Aycock Funeral Homes & Crematory took on the job after signing a confidentiality agreement. They promised not to talk about, write about, photograph or draw the body.

They began work at 9:15 a.m. Saturday and finished at noon, Perper said.

Afterward, Smith’s body was slipped into a black, opaque bag and sealed with evidence tape, Perper said. Then it was locked in a cage – also sealed with evidence tape – and stored in a refrigerated area. “The body’s well under lock and key and inaccessible to anybody who doesn’t have the key,” Perper said.

Meanwhile, a fight still rages over who will be able to claim it. Smith’s attorney and boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, and her estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, will resume their battle in court on Tuesday.

Arthur wants to bury Smith near her birthplace in Texas, while Stern, who lived with Smith in the Bahamas, wants her buried there, next to her son Daniel, who died last year at age 20. Other outstanding legal issues include her will – which leaves her estate to her late son Daniel – and the paternity of her 5-month-old daughter.

, Dannielynn.

Smith also had been fighting for years to claim a multimillion dollar inheritance from her late husband, an elderly oil tycoon. That case has not been resolved either.

Smith died Feb. 8 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood at age 39.

The cause of death won’t be known until toxicology tests on samples taken from her remains are completed in the next two to four weeks.

Fans of Smith – a former stripper and Playboy centerfold who later became a plus-size model and star of her own reality show – have continued to pay their respects at the Dania Beach morgue, where a crude memorial of teddy bears, balloons and wilted flowers has taken shape at the base of a tree.

Diana Kullander stopped by Saturday afternoon to leave a small, purple, and silver toy.

“The unicorn is a little glamorous with long hair and long eyelashes,” said Kullander, 50. “It reminded me of Anna.”

(c) 2007, The Miami Herald.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-02-17-07 1935EST

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