Chicago Lottery Winner Poisoned to Death After $1 Million Win

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Illinois Lottery / AP

This undated photo provided by the Illinois Lottery shows Urooj Khan, 46, of Chicago's West Rogers Park neighborhood, posing with a winning lottery ticket.

Urooj Khan was living the ultimate expression of the American Dream. After immigrating from India in the 1980s, Khan started working at a dry cleaner in Chicago. With a bit of hard work, he would soon own his own dry cleaners, then three, and later five condominiums, too.

And in June, the 46-year-old Khan received the ultimate crown of the American Dream when he walked into his local 7-Eleven convenience store and bought a $30 scratch-off lottery ticket. Unable to contain his excitement, he scratched it off right there. And the exuberance only grew when he found he had a $1 million winner in his hand. He jumped up and down, kissing and hugging the 7-Eleven clerk who sold him the tickets. He put $100 into the clerk’s hands, apologizing for not having more cash on him, according to the Chicago Tribune.

(LIST: The Tragic Stories of the Lottery’s Unluckiest Winners)

“I hit a million!” Khan told the crowd at the Illinois Lottery ceremony on June 26, recalling the moment when he discovered he had hit the jackpot.

He decided to cash out the rewards all at once, receiving nearly $425,000 after taxes, instead of the monthly installments. The hefty check was sent to him on July 19. On July 20, Khan was pronounced dead.

It was a tragic turn of fate for the big winner, but the death wasn’t considered suspicious. There were no obvious signs of trauma on his body, and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause of death as “hardening of coronary arteries,” with no thorough autopsy being done on Khan since he was over the cutoff age of 45 (the age has since been upped to 50). Kahn was given a basic toxicology test, which came back negative, showing his body without a trace of opiates, cocaine and carbon monoxide, the AP reports.

But after the lottery check was cashed on August 15, likely by Khan’s estate, according to the AP, a relative requested a more thorough autopsy. The Medical Examiner’s office revisited the body with an extensive chemical test. And to their surprise, they determined Khan was in fact poisoned — using cyanide.

Now, the death has turned into a potential murder case, and Chicago police are helping with the investigation and attempting to piece together the events that led to the inauspicious death.

(MORE: Powerball Playbook: So You’ve Won the Lottery — An Expert’s Guide on Surviving Day One)

But there are few immediate leads in the case. Indeed, the night of his death was marked with routine. After arriving home from work, he ate dinner and went to sleep about an hour later. His wife, Shabana Ansari, and teenage daughter, Jasmeen Khan, were also at home, according to Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina, the Tribune reports. Soon after, he was heard screaming and rushed to the hospital, the Tribune reports. He was pronounced dead the next day, without ever seeing his major check. It was not until a relative — who Cina said shall remain unidentified — asked the authorities to look into Khan’s death, the AP reports.

Cyanide poisoning is so rare that Cina told the AP that out of 4,500 autopsies he has performed, he has only seen two cases. Though innocent in appearance (white powder) and bitter in taste, cyanide is a deadly poison that can kill a person within minutes, poison expert Deborah Blum told the AP, saying it has the mortifying power of causing a “convulsive, violent death.”

“It essentially kills you in this explosion of cell death,” Blum said. “You feel like you’re suffocating.”

Police have since changed the cause of death to homicide and will likely to exhume the body.

7 comments
MariaNb
MariaNb like.author.displayName 1 Like

What a terrible story! I can not belive someone who can kill for money !!!

banced101
banced101

I wonder if cyanide can form naturally in a dead body?

JohnForsthoffer
JohnForsthoffer like.author.displayName 1 Like

I see two crimes here. The poor mans death obviously. And $575,000 in taxes? Wow.

epitygxanwn
epitygxanwn like.author.displayName 1 Like

It sounds like the perp made up his/her mind to poison before s/he even had time to learn of his lottery winnings. But at this point, we do not really know. What we do know is that this whole incident is a vivid and sobering illustration of the message of Luke 12:15-21: "...You fool! This very night your soul will be demanded of you. To whom shall all your riches then go?"

redjacob12
redjacob12

@epitygxanwn Proverb:26:2: As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.  The guy is dead, murdered, his enemy maybe his wife and daughter, never saw his money, 50%+ tax rip off, and most important his god did not rescue him. Sounds like a fool to me.

drudown
drudown

@epitygxanwn 

I can't tell what is more asinine: your unfounded inference that "the perp made up his/her mind to poison before s/he even had time to learn of his lottery winnings" or your non sequitur quote from the Bible. Neither are appropriate or illuminating. 

RIP

ferio252
ferio252 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

@epitygxanwn Dude this guy was a hard business worker and loving father to his son and daughter. He emigrated from India and was a devote Muslim. He certainly wasn't a fool. In context of your bible quote, that would apply to a man who horded his riches selfishly for himself and did no good. This was a good man murdered, not a fool who horded his wealth.