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Mysterious death of Indian-origin man in US being probed

January 08, 2013 12:45 IST

Police in Chicago is investigating the mysterious murder of an Indian-origin businessman, who had won a million dollar lottery last year and was allegedly poisoned with cyanide a day after he collected his prize.

Urooj Khan, 46, owned a dry-cleaning business in Chicago and had won a million dollar in an Illinois lottery scratch ticket in June last year.

A month later, Khan died just a day after he received the cheque for his lottery win.

Initially, the Cook County medical examiner's office had ruled that Khan died of natural causes and had ruled out any foul play.

However, Khan's relative asked officials to re-examine the cause of his death and new screening results now show that a lethal amount of cyanide was present in Khan's system, prompting police to investigate the death as homicide.

"We are investigating it as a murder, and we're working closely with the medical examiner's office," Chicago police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said in a CNN report.

The presence of cyanide in Khan's blood led officials 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 Steve Cina said.

No arrests have been made in the case so far.

Cina said it is likely that Khan's body would be exhumed as part of investigation into his death.

According to an Illinois Lottery statement that was released after Khan was announced winner last year, Khan and his family were ecstatic over the win and had tipped 100 dollars to the owner of the store from where the winning ticket was purchased.

Accompanied by his wife Shabana Ansari, daughter Jasmeen Khan and several friends, Khan had accepted the cheque from Illinois Lottery representatives.

"I scratched the ticket, then I kept on saying, 'I hit a million!' over and over again. I jumped two feet in the air, then ran back into the store and tipped the clerk USD 100," Khan was quoted as saying in the statement.

Khan had said he planned on paying off his bills, mortgage and making a contribution to a local children's research hospital from his prize money.

He also wanted to invest a portion of the winnings in his dry cleaning business.

"Winning the lottery means everything to me, it will help me grow my business," he had said.

Khan was issued a cheque of USD 425,000, his actual winnings after taxes on July 19.

The next night as he went to bed after dinner, his family heard him screaming and took him to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Cook County medical examiner's office had investigated Khan's death because it was "sudden and unexpected," but had not found any signs of foul play or evidence of trauma.

Khan's body underwent an "external examination (and) basic toxicology testing," neither of which turned up anything abnormal, leading the medical examiner to rule that Khan had died of a cardiovascular disease, which includes incidents like heart attacks and strokes.

A few days later, Khan's relative requested a more thorough investigation into the cause of his death, as "they felt uncomfortable that it was being ruled natural and they suggested that we look into it further," the chief medical examiner said.

In late November last year, a more detailed blood analysis showed "a lethal level of cyanide" and Khan's death became a murder case.

Khan's wife described her husband as a "kind and good-hearted person."

Jimmy Goreel, who runs the store from where Khan had bought the winning lottery ticket, said, "I would never think that anybody ... would hurt him. He was a nice person, very hopeful and gentle (and) very hardworking."

Yoshita Singh in New York
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