Broke and murdered: Real life lottery horror stories

ByJustin Sedgwick KABC logo
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Before you go out to buy a ticket for Wednesday's $485 million Powerball drawing, make sure to check out these real life lottery horror stories.

People across the country are flocking to their nearest gas station or convenience store, hoping to win big on Wednesday night's $485 million Powerball jackpot. But before you fantasize how you'd spend the fifth largest jackpot in lottery history, take a look through these lottery horror stories, and learn what not to do with your winnings.

Andrew Jack Whittaker: Won $315 million


(Photo Credit: AP)

Whitaker was already a millionaire when the 55-year-old bought the winning ticket for the $315 million Powerball in December 2002. But after cashing in his big jackpot, Whittaker's life slowly started to unravel. Legal problems and personal demons pushed Whittaker towards heavy drinking. Whittaker also frequented strip clubs, and reported that $545,000 had been stolen from his car while in the parking lot of a club. In 2007, Whittaker told police that thieves had emptied out his bank accounts.

Whittaker also suffered several personal tragedies after winning his jackpot, with his granddaughter dying of a drug overdose in 2004, and her mother died five years later in 2009. "I wish I'd torn that ticket up," he sobbed to reporters at the time of his daughter's death, according to TIME.

Janite Lee: Won $18 million

Lee, 60, won big in the Illinois lottery in 1993, and spent much of her yearly $620,000 installment payments on philanthropic causes. Lee's generosity saw her dining alongside Bill Clinton and Al Gore, and even got her name on the reading room at the Washington University School of Law. However, Lee sold the rights to her annual payment for a lump sum, and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2001, where it was estimated she had less than $700 to her name and $2.5 million in debt.

Suzanne Mullins: $4.2 million

Mullins won 20 installment payments of $47,778.84 after winning the lottery in 1993. However, Mullis took out a $200,000 loan which she agreed to pay back through her winnings, according to the Associated Press. But then the lottery changed it's rules, allowing winners to take a lump sum payment, and Mullins decided to cash in on her remaining winnings. Mullins didn't continue to pay the loan, and her lenders successfully sued the winner. Mullins couldn't pay the money back, seeing how she had no assets.

Ibi Roncaioli: $5 million

Ontario resident Ibi Roncaioli won $5 million in the 1991 Lotto/649 draw, according to the Toronto Star. But Roncaioli didn't tell her husband Joseph that she was spending her winnings on a child she had with another man. Her husband was then found guilty manslaughter after poisoning and killing Roncaioli.

Urooj Khan: Won $1 million

Urooj Khan was found dead from cyanide poisoning just after winning $1 million from a scratch off ticket in 2012.

(Photo Credit: AP)

In June 2012, Khan, 46, hit the jackpot after purchasing a winning $1 million scratch off ticket at a local 7-Eleven. Khan opted for the lump sum payment of $425,000 instead of installments, according to TIME. But when the check was issued on July 19, Khan was pronounced dead the very next day.

Originally, authorities determined Khan's death to be from natural causes. But a more thorough autopsy proved that Khan had died from cyanide poisoning. Chicago police are treating the death as a homicide, although they haven't revealed to be any leads. However, Khan's $425,000 check was still cashed by his family's estate.

Evelyn Adams: $5.4 million

Adams hit the lottery twice in 1985 and 1986, totaling $5.4 million in winnings. But reports that Adams blew all her money at Atlantic City casinos, and as of 2001 was living in a trailer.

Michael Carroll: $15 million

Carroll won the equivalent of $15 million from the lottery in 2002. But the Brit spent his money frivolously on cocaine, parties, cars, and prostitutes, according to The Week. In 2010, Carroll was said to be hoping to get his job back as a garbageman.

Billy Bob Harrell Jr.: $31 million

Harrell Jr. won big in 1997 with a whopping $31 million jackpot. But Harrell Jr. knew how to spend large, buying a ranch, six homes, and several new cars, Business Insider reports. However, bad luck came Harrell Jr's way later in life, as he became divorced and committed suicide.