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Curse of the lottery: Why winning the Mega Millions could kill you

Money won’t buy you happiness. In fact, if you believe in curses, winning the Mega Millions jackpot may make you the opposite of happy.

It could kill you.

Stay with me here. According to the New York Daily News, 70 percent of lottery winners end up broke within seven years. Even worse, several winners have died horribly or witnessed those close to them suffer.

Here are some of the most notorious cases of lottery winnings gone wrong:

Abraham Shakespeare

Abraham Shakespeare (courtesy WFTS)

Shakespeare won $30 million in the Florida lottery in 2009. But he didn’t have a lot of time to spend it.

Authorities say Shakespeare, 47, was shot twice in the chest by a .38-caliber pistol sometime in April 2009. He wasn’t reported missing until November 2009. His body was found under a slab of cement in a backyard in January 2010.

Tampa woman DeeDee Moore was later found guilty in Shakespeare’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors argued that Moore, 40, befriended Shakespeare before he vanished. After Shakespeare had given away most of his money to people who simply asked for it, Moore agreed to manage the little he had left, but instead, prosecutors said, stole his winnings and killed him.

David Lee Edwards

Edwards was unemployed when he won part of a $280 million lottery jackpot in 2001.

He was an ex-convict, and at the time of his big win it was the third largest lottery pot in U.S. history. Edwards, originally form Kentucky, received a lump sum of $27 million after taxes.

Edwards was convicted of robbery in 1981 and served out his sentence in 1997. Several years after winning the lottery, he was evicted from his million-dollar home in Florida after failing to pay back dues to the homeowners association.

The New York Daily News reports Edwards lost of all his money in just a few years and ended up living in a storage unit surrounded by human feces.

He died at age 58 in 2013 at the Community Hospice Care Center in Ashland, Kentucky.

Jeffrey Dampier

Dampier won $20 million in the Illinois lottery in 1996. His death came nine years later in Tampa, Florida where he had become a popcorn entrepreneur.

Dampier was running Kassie’s Gourmet Popcorn in Tampa was he kidnapped in 2005 by his wife’s sister, Victoria Jackson, and her boyfriend, Nathaniel Jackson (not related).

Prosecutors said the two bound Dampier’s hands with shoelaces and forced him into a van. As they drove around, Nathaniel Jackson handed the gun to his girlfriend and said, “Shoot him or I’ll shoot you,” prosecutors said. Victoria Jackson squeezed the trigger, firing once in the back of Dampier’s head.

Authorities said Dampier had a sexual relationship with Victoria, and showered her with presents from his lottery earnings before she killed him.

Urooj Khan

Urooj Khan (courtesy WPTV)

Khan, a 46-year-old immigrant from India who owned three dry-cleaning businesses in Chicago, won $1 million in a scratch-off Illinois Lottery game in 2012. He said at the time he planned to use the money to pay off his bills and mortgage, and make a contribution to St. Jude Children’s Research Center.

That would never happen, though, as Khan died one day after the state of Illinois cut him a check for $424,449 (his winnings on the ticket after he chose a one-time payment and after subtracting taxes.)

He threw up blood the same day, a relative said.

The medical examiner first ruled Khan had died from natural causes. Six months later, authorities said they had conducted further tests — at the request of a relative they did not name — and determined it was cyanide poisoning. No one was ever charged.

Michael Carroll

Michael Carroll (courtesy YouTube)

Carroll, 26, won $15 million U.S. dollars in a British jackpot back in 2002.

He was soon left with nothing after dishing out cash on parties, cocaine, hookers and cars, the New York Daily News reports.

He was nicknamed “the lotto lout” and also spent his former fortune on a villa in Spain, quad bikes, demolition-derby cars and flashy jewelry, the Huffington Post reports.

Carroll was jailed in 2006 following an altercation and was later convicted of drug possession.

Jack Whittaker

Jack Whittaker (courtesy CNN)

Whittaker, of West Virginia, was already worth around $17 million when he won a $314.9 million multi-state Powerball jackpot in 2002.

After his winnings, Whittaker had hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash stolen from his cars, home and office. He pleaded no contest to assaulting and threatening to kill a bar manager. He was arrested twice on drunken-driving charges and was accused of groping women at a racetrack.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.

In 2004, his 17-year-old granddaughter, Brandi Bragg, was found wrapped in a tarp under a junked van outside her boyfriend’s house. State police said her body had been there for weeks but would not comment on a report that she died of a drug overdose, USA Today reports.

His daughter later died of unknown causes. Both Whittaker and his wife said they wished he had torn the ticket up, the New York Daily News reports.

Billie Bob Harrell Jr.

Life was good in June of 1997 when Harrell Jr. and his wife Barbara Jean held the only winning ticket to a Lotto Texas jackpot of $31 million.

After his big win, the Houston Press reported Harrell Jr. purchased a ranch, as well as a half-dozen homes for himself and other family members. He, his wife and all his kids got new vehicles. He made large contributions to his church. If members of the congregation needed help, Harrell Jr. was there with cash.

But then his life started unraveling and his spending and lending spiraled out of control.

After splitting with his wife, Harrell Jr. locked himself in his upstairs bedroom, stripped away his clothes, pressed a shotgun barrel against his chest and pulled the trigger, investigators said.

According to the Houston Press, shortly before his death, Harrell Jr. confided to a financial adviser: “Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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The New Hampshire woman who won the $559.7 million Powerball jackpot last month is refusing to claim her prize until she’s assured anonymity. And she may have a compelling reason to seek the guarantee.

It turns out winning a jackpot of millions or even thousands of dollars can lead to financial ruin — or even death. Several recent lottery winners have turned up dead in communities across the country.

Abraham Shakespeare, who won $30 million in Florida’s lottery in 2009, was found buried in a makeshift grave under a concrete slab less than three years later. A woman who befriended him and offered to help manage what remained of his winnings instead murdered him; she was sentenced to life in prison.

In Ohio, 47-year-old Deborah McDonald was run over and killed after leaving a bar where she’d been celebrating with friends. McDonald had won $5,520 in the Ohio lottery’s TV game show in 2010 and had purchased wedding rings for her and her husband that she couldn’t previously afford.

Abraham Shakespeare, center, pictured with family members after he won $30 million in the Florida State Lottery. (Courtesy Florida Lottery)

Jeffrey Dampier won an Illinois lottery jackpot of $20 million in 1996. He eventually moved with his family to Florida and invested some of his earnings in a business there. On July 26, 2005, Dampier was murdered by his sister-in-law, Victoria Jackson, and her boyfriend.

A 2007 Georgia lottery winner, Doris Murray, 42, had planned to use her $5 million winnings to start a trust fund for her grandchildren, according to lottery officials. However, she was found stabbed to death in her home a year later, in May 2008. Murray’s ex-boyfriend was charged in her death.

When Billie Bob Harrell, Jr. won the $31 million Texas Lotto jackpot in June 1997 he was thrilled. After quitting his job and giving money to the needy, Harrell was hounded by people asking for donations. He later made a deal with a company that gives winners lump sum payouts instead of annual payments, which left him with far less than he’d won. Not long after that, he separated from his wife. He was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on May 22, 1999.

Deborah McDonald, seen above, was struck by a car and killed shortly after winning the Ohio lottery. (AP)

Sometimes hitting the jackpot simply brings “more problems,” as rapper Notorious B.I.G. put it.

Evelyn Basehore won the $3.9 million Pick Six jackpot in 1985 and then won $1.4 million in the same game a mere five months later, beating very high odds in a rare feat. Basehore had a gambling habit, however, and gave away large amounts of money to her friends. Eventually she went bust and moved into a New Jersey trailer park in 2000. “Winning the lottery isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Everybody wanted my money. Everybody had their hand out,” she told Bankrate after she lost it all.

Doris Murray was found stabbed to death a year after winning $5 million in the Georgia lottery. (Georgia Lottery Handout)

A 52-year-old South Korean immigrant named Janite Lee decided to be generous with her haul when she won $18 million in 1993. She donated $1 million to Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., to help them build a new library. But Lee also gambled a lot, to the tune of about $347,000 per year, which led to her filing for bankruptcy in 2001.

A big culprit in all this bad luck may be the rules governing how prizes can be claimed. Only two states currently allow lottery winners to remain anonymous out of the 42 that operate lotteries. With all that attention, problems are bound to happen, perhaps leading the New Hampshire woman to be apprehensive.

New Hampshire is one of the states allowing winners to form anonymous trusts. But the woman signed her name to her ticket and can’t alter the signature, hiding her identity, without also voiding the ticket.

“Of the thousands of lottery winners I knew, a few were happy and a few lived happily ever after,” Edward Ugel, author of “Money for Nothing: One Man’s Journey Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions,” told the Daily Beast. “But you would be blown away to see how many winners wish they’d never won.”

The New Hampshire woman who won the $559.7 million Powerball jackpot last month is refusing to claim her prize until she's assured anonymity. And she may have a compelling reason to seek the guarantee. ]]>