Lottery winner's poisoned body exhumed for autopsy

Crime

Lottery winner's poisoned body exhumed for autopsy

Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor

CHICAGO (AP) — The body of a Chicago man who was poisoned with cyanide after winning the lottery was exhumed Friday for an autopsy that authorities hope will help solve the mystery surrounding his death.

A black hearse escorted by four police cars carried away the body of Urooj Khan from a cemetery on the city's North Side around 9 a.m., and the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office was expected to perform the autopsy immediately, spokeswoman Mary Paleologos said.

She said examiners will take blood, tissue, bone, hair and nail samples. They'll also examine the lungs, liver, spleen and contents of the stomach and intestines. Paleologos said tests on Khan's organs also may determine whether the poison was swallowed, inhaled or injected.

The autopsy was expected to be finished by Friday afternoon, though it will take two to three weeks to get test results, she said.

Khan, 46, died in July as he was about to collect $425,000 in lottery winnings. His death initially was ruled a result of natural causes. But a relative asked for further tests that revealed in November that he had been poisoned.

Khan's wife, Shabana Ansari, and other relatives have denied any role in his death and expressed a desire to learn the truth.

Authorities remain tightlipped about whom they may suspect.

At dawn on Friday, a backhoe at Rosehill Cemetery began scooping up dark clumps of ground hardened by the cold weather. Two men then finished the work with shovels, and a Muslim cleric said prayers beside Khan's grave. His body was placed in a white bag and loaded into a hearse.

One of Khan's brothers was present, along with officials from the medical examiner's office and Chicago police detectives.

Police kept about half a dozen TV news crews at a distance, beyond the cemetery's fence, and two news helicopters circled overhead.

Khan had come to the U.S. from his home in Hyderabad, India, in 1989, setting up several dry-cleaning businesses and buying into some real-estate investments.

Despite having foresworn gambling after making the haj pilgrimage to Mecca in 2010, Khan bought a lottery ticket in June. He jumped "two feet in the air" and shouted, "I hit a million," he recalled at a lottery ceremony later that month.

He said winning the lottery meant everything to him and that he planned to use his winnings to pay off mortgages, expand his business and donate to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

He was just days from receiving his winnings when he died before dawn on July 20.

The night before, Khan ate dinner with his wife, daughter and father-in-law in their house in Chicago's North Side neighborhood of West Rogers Park, home to many immigrants from India and Pakistan.

Sometime that night, Khan awoke feeling ill and collapsed as he tried to get up from a chair, his wife has said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

With no outward sign of trauma and no initial suspicions, authorities performed only a basic toxicology screening and an external exam of Khan's body in July. They determined that he died of natural causes, as a result of a narrowing and hardening of coronary arteries.

But a concerned relative — whose identity remains a mystery — came forward days later with suspicions and asked authorities to look deeper. They then carried out a full toxicology screening on fluids that had been drawn from the body and found a lethal amount of cyanide in his blood, leading the medical examiner in November to reclassify the death a homicide.

Exhuming the body will allow authorities to conduct an autopsy and, depending on the condition of the remains, to gather more data that could be presented in court if the case goes to trial. It could also provide important clues about how the cyanide entered his body.

Medical Examiner Stephen Cina was to hold a press conference Friday afternoon to give details on the condition of the body and how much testing they were able to do.

Khan was given a religious burial and his body was not embalmed.

His body is to be reburied Monday.

Khan died without a will, opening the door to a court battle. The businessman's widow and siblings fought for months over his estate, including the lottery check.

  • Email Alert Sign Up

    Sign up here to receive breaking news stories from KSWT.com and morning updates to your email inbox.

    * denotes required fields


    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.

KSWT-TV Affiliates

Go to KSWT-TV's Facebook page
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Yuma Shooting Victim Identified; Vigil Held

    Yuma Shooting Victim Identified; Vigil Held

    YUMA - Friends and family gathered outside Jimmie Dee's bar Sunday night to say goodbye to Frank Salazar, Jr. Yuma police are confirming the identification of the 28-year-old shooting victim, who diedMore >>
    YUMA - Friends and family gathered outside Jimmie Dee's bar Sunday night to say goodbye to Frank Salazar, Jr. Yuma police are confirming the identification of the 28-year-old shooting victim, who died outside the local bar early Friday morning.More >>
  • Coming soon...Wal-Mart

    Coming soon...Wal-Mart

    On Wednesday the Yuma City Council voted to change the zoning designation on the proposed land acquired by Wal-Mart. The property located near the intersection of Avenue B and 8th Street was the home of a mobile home park as zones for residential use; the new designation changes that to mixed which will allow the new store to move in to the property. The new store will be the fifth Wal-Mart for Yuma County.More >>
    On Wednesday the Yuma City Council voted to change the zoning designation on the proposed land acquired by Wal-Mart. The property located near the intersection of Avenue B and 8th Street was the home of a mobile home park as zones for residential use; the new designation changes that to mixed which will allow the new store to move in to the property. The new store will be the fifth Wal-Mart for Yuma County.More >>
  • Out with the old...

    Out with the old...

    It has been a staple in the Yuma community since the early 70's and the place to meet for the young and old alike. The Southgate Mall now sits on broken asphalt and bares the scares of more than 40 years; decades being passed from owner to owner and now it's set to be torn down to make way for a new more improved shopping center. Today the building has been stripped from within to make way for demolition equipment to tear down the center portion of the mall. Stores like Sear, Burlington and t...More >>
    It has been a staple in the Yuma community since the early 70's and the place to meet for the young and old alike. The Southgate Mall now sits on broken asphalt and bares the scares of more than 40 years; decades being passed from owner to owner and now it's set to be torn down to make way for a new more improved shopping center. Today the building has been stripped from within to make way for demolition equipment to tear down the center portion of the mall. Stores like Sear, Burlington and t...More >>
  • California firm issues nationwide fruit recall

    California firm issues nationwide fruit recall

    A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.More >>
    A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.More >>
  • Woman arrested to allegedly smuggling drugs into Calipatria State Prison

    Woman arrested to allegedly smuggling drugs into Calipatria State Prison

    CALIPATRIA, CA - A woman visiting an inmate at a local prison winds up behind bars herself for trying to smuggle in drugs. Calipatria State Prison officials say 25-year-old Veronica Delgado was visitingMore >>
    CALIPATRIA, CA - A woman visiting an inmate at a local prison winds up behind bars herself for trying to smuggle in drugs. Calipatria State Prison officials say 25-year-old Veronica Delgado was visiting an inmate in facility C yesterday, when an officer noticed something in her mouth. More >>
  • National

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits willMore >>
    Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits will be delayed if congressional Republicans fail to increase the government's borrowing authority in a looming showdown over the nation's debt and spending.More >>
  • Officials: Rebar spikes placed on forest roads

    Officials: Rebar spikes placed on forest roads

    Officials say someone is placing sharpened rebar spikes around Forest Service roads in Arizona.More >>
    Officials say someone is placing sharpened rebar spikes around Forest Service roads in Arizona.More >>
  • Website ranks Yuma # 1 for worst place in the U.S. for singles

    Website ranks Yuma # 1 for worst place in the U.S. for singles

    Yuma, AZ - People having trouble finding a date or significant other could blame the local economy according to one website. More >>