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Autopsy underway of poisoned Chicago lottery winner

January 18, 2013|By Andrew Khouri

Authorities on Friday morning began an autopsy on the exhumed body of a lottery winner from Chicago who officials say died of cyanide poisoning.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office was expected to hold a news conference Friday afternoon to discuss the case that prompted authorities to exhume the body of Urooj Khan, who died unexpectedly on July 20, weeks after winning after winning a $1-million jackpot from the Illinois lottery.

Khan was exhumed Friday and will be re-interred at Rosehill Cemetery on Monday, medical examiner spokeswoman Mary Paleologos said.

Chicago police and medical examiner officials were onsite during the roughly two-hour exhumation as helicopters hovered above, Paleologos told the Los Angeles Times. Blood and tissue samples will be taken from Khan’s body during the autopsy.

Depending on the quality of the samples, the medical examiner will be able to determine if the cyanide was ingested, injected or inhaled, Paleologos said. Results are not expected for two to three weeks.

The medical examiner initially ruled Khan's death as resulting from natural causes and released his body for burial.

But a family member soon raised concerns. A second examination of blood samples revealed a lethal dose of cyanide, and Khan's death was ruled a homicide.

The medical examiner’s office has said it needs to conduct a full autopsy to confirm those results and rule out any causes or contributing factors to his death. A full autopsy was not performed because the death appeared to be natural at first, the medical examiner said.

The 46-year-old Khan, who owned a string a dry-cleaning stores, had chosen to receive his winnings in a lump sum -- about $425,000 after taxes -- but died before he could collect.

Khan planned to use his winnings to pay off his mortgage and bills. He also planned to make a donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and invest in his dry-cleaning businesses.

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

The lottery money went into his estate and a judge has put a hold on the winnings until a decision is made regarding how to divide it.

Khan’s wife, Shabana Ansari, has said police have questioned her about the ingredients she used to make Khan’s last meal, which she said she shared with him, according to the Chicago Tribune. She said she had nothing to do with her husband's death and expressed shock that someone would poison him.

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