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Body of Chicago lottery winner to be exhumed Friday

January 17, 2013|By Andrew Khouri
  • In this June 2012 photo, Urooj Khan, center, holds a ceremonial check in Chicago for $1 million as the winner of an Illinois instant lottery game. At left is Khan's wife, Shabana Ansari.
In this June 2012 photo, Urooj Khan, center, holds a ceremonial check in… (Courtesy of WMAQ-TV in Chicago )

Authorities on Friday plan to exhume the body of a Chicago lottery winner who officials say died of cyanide poisoning, police confirmed to the Los Angeles Times.

Last week, a Cook County judge gave the medical examiner’s office approval to remove Urooj Khan’s body to conduct an autopsy. Chief Medical Examiner Stephen J. Cina said in a court filing that his office needs to confirm the cyanide poisoning finding and “rule out any other natural causes that might have contributed to or caused Mr. Khan’s death."

Khan’s death in July -- just weeks after striking a $1-million jackpot -- was initially thought to be natural and his body was released for burial. But a family member came forward, urging the medical examiner to take another look.

When the office did, they discovered lethal levels of cyanide in blood samples taken before his body was released. Khan’s death was deemed a homicide and the medical examiner began seeking to exhume his body for a full autopsy.

A full autopsy was never performed because the death appeared to be natural and Khan’s body bore no signs of trauma, the medical examiner's office said.

Khan died before he could receive his winnings, which were about $425,000 after taxes because he chose a lump sum rather than a lengthy payout. The money went into his estate and, according to court records obtained by the Chicago Tribune, his widow, Shabana Ansari, and brother, ImTiaz Khan, have been fighting in court over the winnings. The brother worried that Khan’s daughter from another relationship would not see “her fair share” of the lottery money, records show. The judge in the case had put a hold on the money.

Last week, Ansari told reporters that police asked her about the ingredients she used in making Khan’s final meal.

Ansari said she played no role in her husband’s death and shared the curry dish with her husband and other family members, according to the Chicago Tribune. They had been married 12 years.

"He was such a nice person," she said, according to the Tribune, which broke the story. "No one would dare kill him."

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