The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 8, 2013

Lottery winner's cyanide death being investigated

— CHICAGO (AP) — Urooj Khan had returned to Chicago from the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia inspired to lead a better life and had sworn off buying lottery tickets — except just this once.

To his astonishment, the scratch-off ticket was a $1 million winner. But the day after the state issued the check last July, Khan suddenly died, leaving authorities with a baffling mystery and a homicide investigation.

After initially ruling that he died of natural causes, the Cook County Medical Examiner's office now has determined that Khan, 46, ingested a lethal dose of cyanide. The case was reopened after a relative pleaded for an expanded screening, and the Chicago police now are cooperating in an investigation into who might have killed him.

"It's pretty unusual," said Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina, commenting on the rarity of cyanide poisonings. "I've had one, maybe two cases out of 4,500 autopsies I've done."

Khan, who owned a number of dry cleaners, stopped in at the convenience store near his home in the West Rogers Park neighborhood on the city's North Side in June and bought a ticket for an instant lottery game.

Convenience store clerk Ashur Oshana told The Associated Press on Monday that Khan had gone on the pilgrimage and told him he was done gambling. But Khan couldn't resist and scratched off the winner in front of Oshana.

"Right away he grabbed my hand," Oshana said. "He kissed my hand and kissed my head and gave me $100. He was really happy."

At an Illinois Lottery ceremony days later, Khan recalled that he jumped up and down in the store and repeatedly shouted, "I hit a million!"

"Winning the lottery means everything to me," he said at the June 26 ceremony, also attended by his wife, Shabana Ansari; their daughter, Jasmeen Khan; and several friends. He said he would put some of his winnings into his businesses and donate some to a children's hospital.

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