A Sad but True Texas Lottery Winner Story ....

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Originally Posted: Nov 24, 2004

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Less than two years after Billie Bob Harrell Jr. took the
$31 million lottery jackpot, he took his own life
Harrell, a former Pentecostal preacher, was a Home Depot
stocker when he hit the jackpot.

Billie Bob's (Mis) Fortune
Houston Press
From the Week of Thursday, February 10, 2000

Many have the same dream: finding the six magical numbers that unlock the treasure known as the Texas Lottery. Then life would be good. Problems would vanish. There are even the collective fantasies of what to buy and with whom to share this new, instant wealth.

Billie Bob Harrell Jr. shared those common visions by common souls seeking the salvation of sudden fortune.

And in June 1997, he found it.

He sat in his easy chair one evening and looked at his Quick Pick and then at the Sunday newspaper. Harrell studied the sequence of numbers again and began to realize the wildest of notions. He and wife Barbara Jean held the only winning ticket to a Lotto Texas jackpot of $31 million.

Harrell, a deeply religious man, knew he had a godsend from heaven. After being laid off from a couple of jobs in the past few years, Billie Bob had been reduced to stocking the electrical-supply shelves of a Home Depot in northeast Harris County. He was having a damn hard time providing for himself and Barbara Jean, much less for their three teenage children.

Every Wednesday and Saturday those kids were on his mind when he'd scrape together a few spare dollars to purchase a couple or so lottery tickets. Sometimes he'd use the sequence of his children's birth dates to choose his numbers. Other times he'd let the state's computer do his choosing for him. That random selection finally paid off, transforming Harrell into a millionaire overnight on a warm evening in June.

The hard times were history when he arrived in Austin about a month later, with an entourage that included his family, his minister and his attorneys, to collect the first of 25 annual checks for $1.24 million.

Life had been tough, he said at the formal lottery ceremony, but he had persevered through the worst of it.

"I wasn't going to give up," said Harrell, then 47. "Everyone kept telling me it would get better. I didn't realize it would get this much better."

In fact, it was great. At least for a while. Harrell purchased a ranch. He bought a half-dozen homes for himself and other family members. He, his wife and all the kids got new automobiles. He made large contributions to his church. If members of the congregation needed help, Billie Bob was there with cash.

Then suddenly Harrell discovered that his life was unraveling almost as quickly as it had come together. He relished the role of being an easy touch. But everyone, it seemed -- family, friends, fellow worshipers and strangers -- was putting the touch on him. His spending and his lending spiraled out of control. In February those tensions splintered his already strained marriage.

And on May 22, 1999, 20 months after hitting lottery pay dirt, Harrell locked himself inside an upstairs bedroom of his fashionable Kingwood home and stood at the point of no return. Investigators say he stripped away his clothes, pressed a shotgun barrel against his chest and fired.

Billie Bob Harrell was gone forever. So was the fortune, and even the family that had rejoiced with him when the shower of riches had first rained upon them. A schism has widened between the children and grandparents, who cannot even agree on whether Billie Bob took his own life. And an intrafamily war looms over the remnants of the fortune, which may not even be enough to pay estate taxes.

Perhaps the only thing not in dispute about his life and death is the jarring impact of money: It may not have caused his problems, but it certainly didn't solve them.

Shortly before his death, Harrell confided to a financial adviser: "Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me."


Comments by Dawn Nettles - The Lotto Report
For whatever this is worth, I've heard other lottery winners say that winning the lottery was "not all that it is made out to be" and "winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me. I've lost my family and all my friends."

And equally as important, I've had countless winners write to me and suggest strongly that I educate ya'll about the tax situation and to improve my coverage about how much you "really" win when you win the lottery. They've said ... "The amount won is certainly not the amount we see on the billboards. Don't be deceived."

I honestly believe that my web site has educated a great many of you in many positive ways ... I also realize many of you are really thinking seriously about the "consequences" of winning the lottery so now you are better prepared to win should you win and you are playing more responsibly ... but what breaks my heart is that I don't reach the vast majority of those who NEED to read these stories and the facts I post. Those that I don't reach are too poor to have computers and are soo desperate to win that they spend WAY too much trying to win. Many end up committing suicide, divorced, beating their kids, broke, hungry, committing crimes, on food stamps (many pay for lottery products with their food stamp money too - what they do is buy food then return it for cash) etc.

So, keeping my comments in mind, my wish or dream come true would be for school teachers to start educating our children about the "odds of winning/gambling" (what it means and how difficult it really is) and for large employers to start educating their employees about these things ... like the bottom line of winning "149 million." Employers should be willing to put this on their agenda's because an employee with a troubled mind is not giving 100% of himself to his work which is what the employer needs for success. People who lose all or most of their money by gambling is troubled.

Anyway, ya'll start pushing my idea and do beware, gambling IS destructive and money is evil for most. Money is nice to have but you MUST have common sense, be level headed and STRONG willed. IF you are an easy touch, egotistical, and already live beyond your means - you will regret winning the lottery should you ever win. Chances are great that you will end up broke in the long run. Always remember, God has a reason for everything he does, so winning the lottery may be a test of your character. He can take it away as fast as he gave it to you.

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The Lotto Report
Dawn Nettles
P. O. Box 495033
Garland, Texas 75049-5033
(972) 686-0660
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