The body of a 46-year-old Indian-origin businessman here, who died of cyanide poisoning days after he won a million dollar lottery, was exhumed in a bid to find answers to his mysterious death.
Judge Susan Coleman of the Probate Division of the Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois last Friday had approved the Cook County medical examiner's request to exhume the body of Urooj Khan, who died last July a day after he collected a cheque of $425,000 as his prize money.
The body of Urooj Khan was exhumed on Friday morning.
Family members say they hope the dig at Rosehill Cemetery, on Chicago's north side, will lead to answers as to who may have killed Khan, and why.
"We are confident he was a healthy person and cannot die like that," Khan's brother, Imtiaz Khan, said.
"We are just praying to God that justice will be serviced, and whoever did this will be punished," he was quoted by NBC as saying.
The Khan's death in July, a single day after lottery officials presented him with a check for more than $425,000, was originally attributed to natural causes. A relative later requested the Cook County Medical Examiner take another look.
Khan had come to the US from his home in Hyderabad in 1989 and set up several dry-cleaning businesses in Chicago.
Medical Examiner Dr Stephen Cina said that second look revealed lethal levels of cyanide.
Dr Jon Lomasney, the Director of Autopsy Service at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said that while the upcoming autopsy will be difficult, it should reveal new details.
"After six months of lying in state it's going to be a lot of degradation. The body is not going to be well preserved. There's going to be liquefaction of a lot of organs," he said.
During the autopsy, which should take about two hours to perform, all of the internal organs will be removed and dissected individually.
Lomasney said residual chemicals and substances will be present after six months, and investigators will be able to determine if those levels are normal or not. Cyanide, he explained, can be ingested in food or liquid. It can also be inhaled.
"If you find high levels of cyanide in the lungs higher than the other organs like the stomach or blood, then you can determine that the cyanide was taken into the body via inhalation," Lomasney said.
"Likewise if you find the highest levels in the stomach then it was probably ingested," he said.
A full report of the autopsy should be available within three months, Lamasney said.