US probing mystery death of Indian-origin lottery winner

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 08, 2013 14:10 hrs

Chicago, Jan 8 (IANS) The Chicago police is investigating as murder the sudden death of an Indian immigrant as he was about to collect his winnings after scoring a $1 million jackpot on an Illinois lottery scratch ticket.

The Cook County medical examiner's office initially ruled Urooj Khan's manner of death in July natural. But after being prompted by a relative, the office revisited the case and eventually determined there was a lethal amount of cyanide in Khan's system.

"That ... led us to issue an amended death certificate that (established) cyanide toxicity as the cause of death, and the manner of death as homicide," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Steve Cina said Monday, according to CNN.

No arrests have been made, but Chicago police spokesperson Melissa Stratton said: "We are investigating it as a murder, and we're working closely with the medical examiner's office."

Khan won the $1 million prize June 26 with a $30 ticket he purchased at a 7-Eleven convenience store in the Rogers Park section of Chicago. He planned to use the money for his mortgage, paying off bills and investing more in his dry cleaning businesses.

A cheque for $425,000 towards his winnings after taxes was issued July 19, but Khan never got to spend it.

The next night, Khan came home, ate dinner and went to bed, according to an internal police department document obtained by the Chicago Tribune. His family later heard him screaming and took him to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, the paper reported, citing the document.

The Cook County medical examiner's office investigated Khan's death because it was "sudden and unexpected", Cina said. But an "external examination (and) basic toxicology testing" failed to turn up anything abnormal.

But a few days later, a family member approached the doctor who had examined the body "and said they felt uncomfortable that it was being ruled a natural and they suggested that we look into it further", the chief medical examiner said.

"So we did that," he added. More in-depth toxicology tests in early September indicated cyanide in Khan's blood. In late November, a more detailed blood analysis came back showing "a lethal level of cyanide" and Khan's death became a murder case.

Chicago police haven't offered details, including a possible motive, about what they call an "ongoing investigation".

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