Medical examiner to exhume Chicago lottery winner's body

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CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago medical examiner says he plans to exhume the body of a lottery winner who was poisoned with a lethal dose of cyanide.

Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said today the paperwork is being prepared for a judge to approve and he hopes to exhume Urooj Khan’s body in the next few weeks.

Khan’s death on July 20 was initially ruled a result of natural causes. But a relative’s request for a deeper look resulted in the startling conclusion months later that Kahn was killed with the highly toxic poison as he was about to collect $425,000 in winnings.

Cina says exhuming the body could allow for more tests that could be presented in court if the case goes to trial.

Police have not announced any suspects.

Urooj Khan had returned to Chicago from the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia inspired to lead a better life and had sworn off buying lottery tickets — except just this once.

To his astonishment, the scratch-off ticket was a $1 million winner. But the day after the state issued the check last July, Khan suddenly died, leaving authorities with a baffling mystery and a homicide investigation.

After initially ruling that he died of natural causes, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office now has determined that Khan, 46, ingested a lethal dose of cyanide. The Chicago police now are cooperating in an investigation into who might have killed him.

“It’s pretty unusual,” said Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina, commenting on the rarity of cyanide poisonings. “I’ve had one, maybe two cases out of 4,500 autopsies I’ve done.”

Khan, who owned a number of dry cleaners, stopped in at the convenience store near his home in the West Rogers Park neighborhood on the city’s North Side in June and bought a ticket for an instant lottery game.

Convenience store clerk Ashur Oshana told The Associated Press on Monday that Khan had gone on the pilgrimage and told him he was done gambling. But Khan couldn’t resist and scratched off the winner in front of Oshana.

“Right away he grabbed my hand,” Oshana said. “He kissed my hand and kissed my head and gave me $100. He was really happy.”

At an Illinois Lottery ceremony days later, Khan recalled he jumped up and down and repeatedly shouted, “I hit a million!”

“Winning the lottery means everything to me,” he said at the June 26 ceremony, with his wife, Shabana Ansari; their daughter, Jasmeen Khan; and friends. He said he’d put some winnings into his businesses and give some to a children’s hospital.

Khan opted for a lump sum of slightly more than $600,000. After taxes, the winnings amounted to about $425,000, said lottery spokesman Mike Lang. The check was issued from the state Comptroller’s Office on July 19, the day before Khan died. It was cashed Aug. 15, Lang said.

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