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Mystery: How Did Million Dollar Lottery Winner End Up Dead From Cyanide?

One day after the check was issued, million dollar lottery winner Urooj Khan was dead.

The initial report from the Cook County (Ill.) Medical Examiner's office cited natural causes.

But now, authorities say, they've determined that Khan's July 20 death was due to cyanide poisoning. So Chicago police are back on the case.

The 46-year-old Khan, as the Chicago Sun-Times writes, "literally jumped for joy" last June when he figured out he had a $1 million winning ticket in the Illinois Lottery. When he claimed his prize and opted to take it in a lump sum (worth about $425,000 after taxes), Khan said he would be investing much of the windfall in his dry-cleaning business, the newspaper adds.

The check was cut on July 19. "The next night," as CNN writes, "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."

According to The Associated Press, an external exam "showed no signs of trauma on Khan's body. No autopsy was done because, at the time, the Medical Examiner's Office didn't generally perform them on people 45 and older unless the death was suspicious, [Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen] Cina said. The cutoff age has since been raised to age 50. After the basic toxicology screening for opiates, cocaine and carbon monoxide came back negative, the death was ruled a result of the narrowing and hardening of coronary arteries."

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

So more tests were done. "In late November," according to CNN, "a more detailed blood analysis came back showing 'a lethal level of cyanide' and Khan's death became a murder case."

As for the money, according to the AP: The check "was cashed Aug. 15, [lottery spokesman Mike] Lang said, explaining that if a lottery winner dies, the money typically goes to his or her estate."

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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