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Autopsy results for poisoned lottery winner could take weeks

January 18, 2013|By Andrew Khouri
  • Cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cina speaks to reporters after the autopsy of Urooj Khan, the Chicago lottery winner who died in July.
Cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cina speaks to reporters after… (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press )

Officials with the medical examiner's office finished an autopsy Friday on the Chicago lottery winner who authorities say died of cyanide poisoning. The results, which could confirm that finding, are expected in a few weeks.

Cook County Chief Medical Examiner Stephen J. Cina told reporters Friday afternoon that the autopsy, conducted a short time after Urooj Khan's body was exhumed Friday morning, lasted a few hours. Doctors took samples of hair and fingernails as well as organs from the 46-year-old who died July 20, just weeks after winning a $1-million jackpot in the Illinois Lottery.

Khan -- who was not embalmed, in accordance with Islamic tradition -- was in a “state of advanced decomposition,” Cina said.  Although tissue is generally better preserved when a body is embalmed, he said the chemicals involved in the process can confuse test results.

Because Khan’s death was initially ruled to be from natural causes, the medical examiner's office had released the body for burial without doing a full autopsy.

After a family member raised concerns, the medical examiner took another look, found lethal levels of cyanide in blood samples taken from Khan and reclassified the death a homicide.

The medical examiner’s office said it needed to conduct a full autopsy to confirm those results and rule out any other potential causes or contributing factors.

The test results are expected in a couple of weeks, Cina told reporters gathered for the latest update.

“We are done with our examination,” he said.

Police have questioned Khan’s wife, Shabana Ansari, at length, according to the Chicago Tribune. She has said she had nothing to do with her husband’s death.

Khan died before he collected his winnings in a lump sum -- about $425,000 after taxes.  He planned to pay off debts, make a donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and invest in his dry-cleaning businesses. Because he died before he could collect, the money went into his estate.

Some family members have fought in court over the winnings, the Chicago Tribune reported. A  judge has put a hold on the money until a decision is made regarding how to divide it.

“Winning the lottery means everything to me," Khan had told lottery officials. "It will help me grow my business.”

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