A 72-year-old Lompoc aerospace technician is the apparent winner of the state's estimated $50.4-million Super Lotto jackpot, making him the largest winner in California lottery history.
The clerk at a 7-Eleven store in the coastal community--earlier identified by lottery officials as the location that sold the winning ticket--said Sunday that the lucky customer was Augustine Chiarenza, who is married but has no children.
In fact, at the moment a reporter called late Sunday, Chiarenza was in the store reading off the numbers on the ticket he bought several days ago: "6, 11, 26, 27, 38, 50."
Chiarenza was not even aware of how much he'd won until told by the reporter.
"Eeesch!" he said. "I didn't know that. I knew it was large."
"It'll hit me," he added. "I'm still in a state of shock. I haven't quite broken the news to my wife yet."
Chiarenza said he planned to go to a lottery office in Ventura today to claim his prize. Lottery officials said they will not confirm the winner's name until the ticket is delivered. The prize--with federal taxes taken out--will be paid over a 20-year period.
The largest previous California winner was Thomas Tehee of Upland, who won a $45.3-million jackpot on Dec. 5, 1990, lottery spokeswoman Norma Minas said. Though other jackpots have been higher, there have been several winning tickets, meaning that the prize was split.
"Definitely, this would break the record for a single ticket," Minas said.
About $100 million worth of tickets were sold before Saturday's drawing. But Chiarenza said he missed it on TV: He had to put in a 13-hour shift at Martin Marietta's facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
He spent much of Sunday working as well. It was only during a morning coffee break that he checked the numbers in the newspaper.
"It didn't sink in," he said. "I wanted to check it out at the store."
Still, he didn't want to leave work because his employer would have had to call in a replacement. So he waited until his shift ended at 4 p.m. before going to the 7-Eleven to confirm the numbers that he didn't even pick himself--they were spit out on a Quick Pick ticket.
"It's a miracle," he said.
Chiarenza said he is not quite sure what he will do with the money, but he plans to pay off the $129,000 home that he bought six months ago with his wife, Marguerite. He also wants to pay off the loan on his 1988 Lincoln Mark VII.
He has no immediate plans to quit the job that he's held for 34 years.
"I'm already past retirement age," he said. "When you retire, you have to have something to do. I don't really have that many hobbies and I don't play that many sports."
At the 7-Eleven, Chiarenza was posing for pictures for a local newspaper photographer, but had yet to celebrate.
"It's been a long day," he said. "I'm going to take a shower, get a bite to eat. Maybe I'll go to the Elks Club."