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Ventura Homemaker Shares in Big Winnings

Lottery: Yolanda Starr $16.9 million richer from state's second-largest Super Lotto jackpot.

April 10, 1998|CHRIS CHI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VENTURA — Yolanda Starr is the first to admit that she doesn't need the money.

After all, as a homemaker in the posh Ventura Keys who spends much of the week doting on her beloved granddaughter, life is pretty good.

Life, however, got a heck of a lot better Thursday morning--$16.9 million better, to be exact.

"Yoli! I think you've gotten something here!" yelled her husband, Nick, as he scoured the morning paper for the winning numbers in the $104-million state lottery. Double-checking her ticket, she could hardly believe it: Jackpot!

One of three winners to split the second-largest state lottery in history, Yolanda Starr pledged only to buy her husband a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and treat herself to a shopping spree for clothes. The 45-year-old hospital volunteer predicted that her life won't change much at all.

"We don't have many problems to speak of and money's not going to solve the problems we'll encounter," said Starr, who bought the winning Quick Pick ticket during a shopping trip to the nearby Vons. "We'll just have a little more money to disperse. We have a big family."

The other winning tickets belonged to a group of 22 family members and friends in Bakersfield, and an unknown ticket holder who made the lucky purchase in Santa Clarita.

Outside the Starrs' ivy-covered waterfront home, husband Nick--a controversial former Los Angeles Harbor commissioner whose 1968 bribery conviction was later overturned on appeal--greeted a flood of well-wishers.

"Nick, I need a handout!" yelled one passerby in a pickup.

Starr, 64, a longtime property manager who moved to Ventura in the 1980s, served a stormy four-year tenure on the Ventura Harbor Commission before withdrawing two years ago.

He said Wednesday that the family has no plans to move.

"I think I'm already in the best spot in the country," Starr said, quipping that he and Yolanda "were hoping Vons would send some champagne over."

The winning ticket would bring $34 million--one-third of the $104-million jackpot--stretched over 26 years. But Starr and the Bakersfield group are taking their payoffs in reduced lump sums, netting $16.9 million each before taxes.

Wednesday's drawing capped a frenetic three days of ticket-buying: Statewide sales reached 100,000 per minute at one point.

A total of 51.4 million tickets were purchased on Wednesday alone, including 8.3 million between 6 and 7 p.m., breaking the lottery's one-hour sales record, officials said.

Overwhelmed by the last-minute frenzy, some of the 19,000 Super Lotto machines broke down for as long as two hours Wednesday afternoon.

As the delay stretched long lines even longer, angry crowds pressed to get closer to ticket machines and, in several communities, police were called in to prevent violence.

In Oxnard, a man was shot three times for unknown reasons in front of One-Stop Liquor Market after buying a ticket. No one in the long line there stepped out of place to help the bleeding man, employees said.

Valentino Sapien of Oxnard remained in serious but stable condition Thursday at St. John's Regional Medical Center with gunshot wounds to his stomach and both forearms.

At the Harbor Boulevard Vons where Starr purchased her winning ticket, employees gathered at the front of the store Thursday morning frantically combing through dozens of tickets bought in an office pool.

"We thought for sure it was one of us," supervisor Tess Powers said. Then Powers' phone rang. It was her best friend, Yolanda Starr.

"Yolanda, I gotta go. Somebody from the store won!" Powers said.

"I won," came the response. "I won."

The Starrs said they planned a block party for their neighbors and a lobster dinner with Powers and her husband, with whom they go out to dinner almost every Friday night.

Over the long term, Yolanda Starr said, she wants her daughter to go to law school: The money will pay for tuition. Her daughter, Darlene Webb, a county government paralegal, broke down crying at an afternoon news conference.

She said her mother has already made her life easier by baby-sitting her daughter three days a week. Starr also has a grown son, Mario. Both of her children are from a previous marriage.

In Bakersfield, Aurora Pineda, one of the 22 winners on a single ticket, knows exactly what she'll do with her $770,000 share of the prize.

"I want to pay my bills," Pineda, a school bus driver, said at a news conference. "I want to get these bill collectors off my back."

She also hopes to live under one roof with her husband, who works in Chula Vista to make ends meet.

Enrique Pineda, who works at a Jack In The Box 235 miles away, couldn't believe his good fortune Thursday. "Now I can be with my family," he said.

At the state lottery's district headquarters in Ventura, the mood was bittersweet. The office will close in June as part of a state plan to cut lottery costs. Six of fourteen workers are expected to lose their jobs.

"It's a nice way to go," district lottery manager Stephen Freund said. "We've had a lot of big winners."

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