"What Now?" The Lives of 6 Lottery & Powerball Winners

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The Powerball Division One pot ballooned to $100,000,000, equaling the largest jackpot in Australian history with no one coming forward to claim after eight consecutive weeks. The last time the prize went up this big, a couple of winners had to split the pot.

Winning the Powerball, or any lottery for that matter, has life-changing consequences--a chance that thousands of people take even though statistically one could be attacked by a shark and be struck by lightning in the same lifetime before cracking the right 7-number combination.

However, despite seemingly insurmountable odds, several people have been lucky enough to win--so-called unicorns that had to come to grips with such a unique situation.

While almost every Powerball winner would rather stay away from the limelight, there are those who offered a glimpse of what became of their lives after finding out that they're suddenly rich--whether good or bad. Here are a few of them.

 

Jack Whittaker, US$315,000,000

Jack Whittaker won a roughly $315 million Powerball jackpot in West Virginia on Christmas morning in 2002.

"I just was [at] a loss for words and advice," Whittaker said at the time. "You know, I was really searching for advice, and it's, like, Christmas Day."

But when Whittaker spoke with ABC News just five years later, his tone had changed. "Since I won the lottery, I think there is no control for greed," he told ABC News in 2007. "I think if you have something, there's always someone else that wants it. I wish I'd torn that ticket up."

Whittaker gave away over $50 million to friends, family, and strangers in the form of houses, cars, and cash. Eight months after winning, he was robbed of $545,000. His marriage fell apart, and his granddaughter began using drugs and later overdosed.

"If I knew what was going to transpire, honestly, I would have torn the ticket up," Jewell Whittaker, Jack Whittaker's ex-wife told ABC News.

 

Sandra Hayes, US$224,000,000

While stories about lottery winners almost always end up miserably, some lottery go on to thrive. Missouri lottery winner Sandra Hayes has managed to keep her head above water, even after splitting a $224 million Powerball jackpot, along with 12 coworkers.

"I had to endure the greed and the need that people have, trying to get you to release your money to them. That caused a lot of emotional pain," she told The Associated Press. "These are people who you've loved deep down, and they're turning into vampires trying to suck the life out of me."

The former social worker has avoided financial misfortune by maintaining her frugal lifestyle, even though she no longer lives paycheck to paycheck. "I know a lot of people who won the lottery and are broke today," she said. "If you're not disciplined, you will go broke. I don't care how much money you have."

 

Mavis Wanczyk, US$758,700,000

After claiming the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot in August of 2017, winner Mavis L. Wanczyk of Chicopee, Massachusetts, ignored nearly all of that advice. When the 53-year-old realized she had the winning ticket, she immediately quit her job of 32 years in patient care at Mercy Medical Center.

"I've called them and told them I will not be coming back," she told reporters that morning.

The first thing that experts recommend winners do is to keep quiet. "I would recommend not telling people," says Nick Holeman, certified financial planner at Betterment. "I wouldn't necessarily go broadcasting it to the world."

Lottery winners typically have three months to present their ticket — Wanczyk spoke with press in less than 24 hours.

 

Maria Lou Devrell, AU$5,000,000

When New South Wales woman Maria Lou Devrell won $5 million in 2011, she had no idea how much danger it would put her in.

Peter Joseph Kelly was Ms Devrell’s accountant and had known her and her husband for 20 years when the couple struck it lucky, according to the Herald Sun.

After their windfall — and frustrated by Ms Devrell’s “wasteful” spending habits — Kelly murdered his client with a rubber mallet in a fit of rage.

“A situation emerged in which they were spending money more quickly than it was being allocated to them by the offender,’’ Justice Robert Allan Hulme said in sentencing Kelly to a maximum of 18 years in jail in 2012.

“He seems to have had the attitude that they were being wasteful."

 

Louise White, US$336,400,000

In 2012, 81-year-old Louise White of Newport, Rhode Island, bought rainbow sherbet at Stop N Shop just before purchasing a lottery ticket that would end up being worth $336.4 million, ABC News reports.

In honor of the lucky dessert, she created "The Rainbow Sherbert Trust," a trust that would benefit her family.

A family spokesman said the winning ticket was kept in White's Bible -- which she then slept with -- until she could get to a bank and put it in a safe deposit box.

White chose to accept the lump sum payment of $210 million, rather than the 30 annuity payments paid out over 29 years. White will pay about $52.5 million in federal taxes and $14.7 million in state taxes.

 

Merle & Patricia Butler, US$218,600,000

Merle and Patricia Butler were the only winners to come forward publicly of a $656,000,000 jackpot. And they were coy about how they planned to spend the money, saying only that they'd take the lump sum of $157 million and spend on the advice of their financial planners and attorneys.

Patricia told USA Today that the couple would "do some real good" with their winnings.

"Winning this amount of money is a major responsibility, one we take seriously and will figure out step-by-step as we go along. I'm sure we will be using part of the winnings to do some real good; we just don't know yet how that might manifest itself."

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