Illinois Lottery Winner’s Death Turns Into Cyanide-Poisoning Investigation

Tuesday, 08 Jan 2013 01:06 PM

By Megan Anderle

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The winner of a $1 million Illinois scratch-off lottery ticket died last summer, a day after claiming his new fortune, and now Chicago police are investigating his death as a homicide.

A coroner ruled that 46-year-old Urooj Khan died of natural causes, but after a relative pushed officials to probe the case it was determined Khan had a lethal amount of cyanide in his system, according to CNN.

"That ... led us to issue an amended death certificate that (established) cyanide toxicity as the cause of death, and the manner of death as homicide," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Steve Cina said Monday.

No arrests have been made, but police are investigating whether the lottery prize was a motive.

"We are investigating it as a murder, and we're working closely with the medical examiner's office," Chicago police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said on Monday.

After taxes, Kahn's winnings amounted to $425,000 and he had planned to use it for his mortgage, to pay off bills, and to invest more in his dry cleaning business. He also planned to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The check was issued July 19, according to CNN affiliate WGN, and Kahn claimed the check at the 7-11 store where he bought the ticket.

The next day Khan was taken to the hospital, screaming in excruciating pain, and was pronounced dead soon after, officials said.

Khan, his wife, and their daughter were elated to find out they won big on June 26 after Khan bought two $30 tickets.

"I scratched the ticket, then I kept saying, 'I hit a million!' over and over again," he said, according to a press release from the Illinois Lottery. "I jumped two feet in the air, then ran back into the store and tipped the clerk $100."

Khan came to the U.S. in the 1980s from India. He owned three dry cleaners and owned and managed several rental condominiums.

Kahn's wife told the Chicago Tribune he was the "best husband on the entire planet." Kahn was described by people who knew him as a hard-working provider for his family who had a big heart.

When Khan died there were no allegations of foul play or evidence of trauma. So, following the office's policy, Khan's body underwent what Cina described as an "external examination (and) basic toxicology testing," neither of which turned up anything abnormal, so they ruled he died of natural causes.

A few days later, a family member approached the doctor who had examined the body "and said they felt uncomfortable that it was being ruled a natural and they suggested that we look into it further," the chief medical examiner said, according to WGN.

After more in-depth toxicology tests, screening results indicated there was cyanide in Khan's blood. In late November, a more detailed analysis came out indicating "a lethal level of cyanide," at which point his death was ruled a homicide.

"It's sad. It's very sad. But I guess it's true when they say that money is the root of all evil," a cashier at the 7-11 told WGNtv.com.

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