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Mega Millions mystery solved: Illinois couple claim $218 million

April 18, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • Mega Millionaires Pat and Merle Butler of Illinois.
Mega Millionaires Pat and Merle Butler of Illinois.

A husband and wife from an Illinois farming town have staked their claim to a $218-million share of the record Mega Millions jackpot that recently riveted the nation.

Merle and Pat Butler spent just $3 on lottery tickets (using the quick-pick method) to get in on last month's record $656-million jackpot. The Butlers are the last of the three winning ticket-holders to step forward.

Merle Butler, 65, attended a news conference Wednesday and told the media that when he first checked his numbers after the March 30 drawing, he couldn't believe he'd won. Pat Butler couldn't believe it at first, either.

"I looked [at] my wife, who was right there with me and said, 'We won,'" Merle Butler told reporters, according to CNN. "Then she looked at me funny, and I said, 'No, we won.'"

With so much money at stake, interest in the lottery has been intense. The same goes for interest in the winners. People want to know what it would be like to become mega-rich overnight. Among the questions: How old are the winners? Where do they work? What will they do with the money? How did they pick their numbers?

The public's desire for details can't quite be slaked, however. There were three winning tickets, purchased in Illinois, Maryland and Kansas. Of those three states, only Illinois requires the names of the winners to be made public.

In all likelihood, the Butlers would have preferred to remain anonymous. It's possible that the media -- and friends, relatives and neighbors holding outstretched hands -- will be hounding the Butlers for years to come.

Sometimes, making winners' names known has unintended side effects.

A Michigan woman was arrested this week on fraud charges after it became known that she won $1 million dollars last September, but continued to collect public assistance. How did authorities put all the pieces together? For one, Amanda Clayton posed for a photo with one of those big checks.

Our sister paper, the Chicago Tribune, reports that the Illinois winners' identities have been the source of much speculation in Red Bud, the farming community where the Butlers live. (It was no secret the ticket was purchased there.)

Scores of residents gathered at City Hall on Wednesday to learn who had struck it rich, the Tribune reported, adding: A cheer could be heard outside when the Butlers' names were announced.

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