Sad but True Winners Stories
Texas Stories Have Gone World Wide

(TX) Left With a $25,000 Question ... Man lost his winning ticket,
then got it back, now it's in Lottery limbo (
A disgrace)
(TX) Tale of winning ticket combines faith, hope
(TX) What once was lost - lottery ticket -- now is found

Texas Lottery should be clear about jackpots
Instant Millions Can't Halt Winners' Grim Slide
State probe, drug arrest trip up Powerball winner

Just point and click ...

Originally Posted: Dec 8, 2005
Revised: Dec 20, 2005

Links to all winners stories found on LottoReport web site, Click here

Before you buy that next scratch ticket ... Click here

- Editors Note -
The first three stories have gone world wide now. We are also fortunate
in that we have been contacted by some of the largest talk show
hosts in the country about this story. Anyway, this story originally
appeared in the Texas papers on Dec 8 & 9, 2005. The stories focus on
he plight of one man and his attempts to collect his winning from the
TLC. We tried to settle this issue PRIOR to contacting the media
with his collection problem on Tuesday, Dec 6th.

I wonder who will get fired for this one?
I'll bet it'll be the wrong person.

Update - When and IF he ever collects his winnings - $25,000 -
I'll let you know. FYI - The Texas Lottery has NO
legitimate excuse for withholding his money
This gentleman finally collected his winning on
Dec 19, 2005. It's the first story below.

Now read on ...

Man finally cashes in on lottery ticket
$25,000 winner lost – then found – to cover swing set, bills

08:07 AM CST on Tuesday, December 20, 2005
By DIANE JENNINGS / The Dallas Morning News

Mike Sargent can now buy his granddaughter the swing set he wanted. And the hefty check he wrote to his church several weeks ago can be cashed. No more shopping in the clearance aisle for bargain Christmas gifts.

More than a month after he scratched off a lottery ticket worth $25,000, Mr. Sargent finally collected his winnings. The rollercoaster ride of a ticket lost and found – and seemingly interminable wrangling with the Texas Lottery Commission – ended Monday when he walked out of the Dallas claim center, arm raised in victory and a too-rare smile on his face.

“I never thought I’d get it,” he said.

Mike Sargent hasn't bought another lottery ticket since he won and doesn't intend to. And he wouldn’t have, he said, if self-appointed lottery watchdog Dawn Nettles hadn’t worked zealously on his behalf.

Mr. Sargent bought the ticket in mid-November. When he realized he was a winner, the convenience store owner advised him to put his name and address on the ticket.

He did – then jubilantly raced home to give the ticket to his wife.

“She’s stuck with me through thick and thin,” he said, noting that the last year has been particularly sparse. His father is battling cancer in California, and his own poor health had forced him to leave his job for several months, causing bills to mount.

But when Mr. Sargent went to hand his wife the ticket, he no longer had it.

A frantic search, including sifting through garbage, ensued, until a man called a few days later saying he’d found the ticket and would return it for $2,500.

Mr. Sargent borrowed the reward money, then tried to redeem the ticket through the Lottery Commission. But lottery officials told him they’d have to verify his story first. Someone had attempted to alter the ticket. It would take 6-8 weeks, he was told.

“We have a process that we follow to make sure that we pay our players in a timely fashion,” Leticia Vasquez, spokeswoman for the Commission said. “And we don’t deviate from that process. That’s been one of the reasons it’s taken so long.”

When two weeks had passed with no word from the Commission, Ms. Nettles, made some calls. She said Monday that she was glad Mr. Sargent collected his check, but added the Commission should be ashamed the process took so long.

“The Texas Lottery likes money, that $25,000 sitting there drawing interest,” she said. “When it comes to the almighty dollar, the Texas Lottery has no morals.”

At 9:52 a.m., the delivery truck carrying Mr. Sargent’s winning ticket arrived at the claim center in Dallas and Mr. Sargent was able to claim his winnings.

Mr. Sargent, 51, said he was going to give up if he didn’t get the money by 10 a.m. Monday when he had to leave for work. The money wasn’t as important as what he learned from the experience, he said.

“Whether I get the money or not, it renewed my faith that God was taking care of everything,” Mr. Sargent said.

After losing the ticket he said, “It just came over me that God was telling me …‘You don’t need the lottery. You need to depend on me – I have always taken care of you.’”

That sense of peace is probably why Mr. Sargent has only modest plans for the money. After his tithe to the church, and the swing set for his 4-year-old granddaughter, he wants to pay off credit card bills, help his son and contribute to an informal prison ministry.

When he was on leave from his job, the couple got by with the help of overtime for Mrs. Sargent and credit cards. Mr. Sargent has since returned to work, but $25,000 nonetheless seemed like a godsend.

“We’re not into material things, “Mr. Sargent explained. “I live in a double-wide trailer.”

His priorities “are to use what God gives and help meet needs here on earth.”

Other than the swing set, he and his wife don’t plan any big Christmas splurge.

“We have what we need,” he said. “It’s God’s birthday – not ours.”

He hasn’t bought another lottery ticket since he won and doesn’t intend to.

“Even if God hadn’t told me to quit playing the lottery,” he said with a smile, “This experience would.”


(Texas) Left with a $25,000 question (Front Page)
Man lost his winning ticket, then got it back, now it's in lottery limbo

08:16 PM CST on Wednesday, December 7, 2005
By CHRISTY HOPPE / The Dallas Morning News
(Comments in blue inserted by Dawn Nettles - The Lotto Report)

AUSTIN – Mike Sargent is a lucky guy. Or not.

Mr. Sargent, 51, of Alvarado won $25,000 on a Wheel of Fortune lottery scratch-off three weeks ago. He has yet to see a penny, but he has lost several days' work, is taking "nervous pills" and has spent $2,500 of money he doesn't really have to try to redeem it.

"I wish I hadn't won it," he lamented Wednesday.

Now, he said, he sees the ordeal as a religious message about casting aside false hopes and depending on the Lord. That said, he still wouldn't mind the money.

The first turn of the wheel – of fortune or otherwise – was at 9 o'clock on a blustery Tuesday night. Mr. Sargent scratched off the ticket while still standing in a convenience store where he stops regularly. "I about lost it," he said. "I just yelled, 'I won $25,000!' I was almost hyperventilating."

And then, he did lose it. Not his calm, but the ticket.

He remembered that the store owner had told him to write his name and address on the back of the ticket and sign it immediately. Then, on the way home, he called his wife, Bonnie, to tell her that "I had the best Christmas gift for her."

Mike Sargent lost a winning lottery ticket. It was returned with an altered signature, which has complicated matters. It seemed to be a miracle at the end of a trying year. Debilitating migraines had forced him to leave his job as a facility specialist for SBC for five months. His van was repossessed and his wife was working overtime. They were barely hanging on, but had started to get life back on track, going back to work last spring.

When he won the scratch-off game, he thought on the drive home, "God not only provided while I was panicking and out of work; he not only took care of me, but he gave me back even what I had lost."

Five minutes later, he no longer had the ticket.

People will do strange and extreme things when they think they've lost $25,000, Mr. Sargent said.

He called the store. He called police. He, his wife and son, and congregants at their church searched the convenience store parking lot. He went through every crushed Slurpee cup in the store's trash bins. He had the seats pulled from his car. He put up posters on a forest's worth of telephone poles. He went on a radio trade show, offering a $2,000 reward.

He had, of course, also called the Texas Lottery Commission to report his claim and give the serial number of the scratch-off card, in case anyone else tried to redeem it.

Then, on Nov. 19, he received a call from a meter reader who had found the ticket about five houses down from the convenience store. The finder asked for $2,500 for its return, and Mr. Sargent agreed. But it meant borrowing the money.

"He told me he was going to have such a great Christmas with the $2,500. It hurt me that he was going to have a better Christmas than us," Mr. Sargent said.

When Mr. Sargent tried to redeem the ticket in Dallas, lottery officials noted that someone had tried to erase his signature on the back. Because it was altered, the ticket would have to be sent to Lottery Commission headquarters in Austin.

Unwilling to part with the ticket again, Mr. Sargent drove it down himself. Lottery officials there told him the ticket would have to go through forensics, to make sure no other signature had been covered over, and then enforcement would try and verify his story.

It is important to note here that while he was in Austin, no one from security came to see him and they did not take his picture. What IF the person who appeared in Austin was NOT Mr. Sargent but was someone trying to commit fraud with Mr. Sargents ticket? The TLC security staff should have been there immediately to check him out. Further, Mr. Sargent should have been paid the day he was in Austin because the TLC already had sufficient proof that he was the REAL winner. A call to several former security personnel said his case was obviously "cut and dried" but the TLC is STILL stalling paying this man his winnings.

Why didn't they take his picture ... They do everybody else!

Two weeks passed, and he heard nothing. No one was returning his call. (Imagine that!) And so he turned to lottery watchdog Dawn Nettles, who knows how to get answers from the commission and who helped expose problems with guaranteed jackpots this year.

"The forensics guy it was assigned to was on vacation. It was his case. Had it not been for our call, it would have sat there until he returned," Ms. Nettles said. (As it turns out, the forensics work took less than one hour to complete.)

Ms. Nettles pointed out that because the ticket was scanned, the lottery officials already knew where and when it had been sold. And Mr. Sargent had presented all the relevant information, plus witnesses to his win.

"When he arrived there, they had everything they needed," Ms. Nettles said. (Yet they refused to pay him claiming they needed to "investigate." Baloney. Did the TLC see a way to continue to advertise one more top winning prize for this game?)

Lottery spokesman Bobby Heith confirmed that his agency had received the ticket from Mr. Sargent. He said that the case is being assigned to an enforcement officer to verify the facts.

It is important to say that when Mr. Sargent first called the TLC that his ticket was lost, they refused to take the information (serial number) about his ticket. This goes to show you that the Texas Lottery couldn't care less WHO appears to claim a ticket or if it is even found to claim. It has been reported that other top prizes have been paid on a lost ticket without the player having the ticket. That's because the player could prove - without a doubt - that they bought the winning ticket. But so far they've not paid Mr. Sargent. WHY?

"We have compassion for Mr. Sargent and his needs. We want to move along, but we want to move along in a manner where we know the correct person is getting the money," Mr. Heith said.

He said lottery officials have a duty to winners but also to taxpayers to ensure the "honesty, security and integrity of the games." It could take another six to eight weeks, he said. (The "duty" of the Texas Lottery is to pay winners their winnings when they come to Austin to collect. This man had conclusive proof that he was the owner of that ticket - there is NO excuse for stalling him and keeping HIS money. The TLC refused to HONOR the face value of two Set For Life tickets last year too. Those winners had to wait for Scientific Games to pay them and it took a very long time for them to collect too. This is a disgrace.)

Meanwhile, Mr. Sargent is weighted by heavier concerns. He is trying to get to California to visit his father, who is dying of lung cancer. He said his sister is helping him get a plane ticket.

"I had accepted that I wasn't going to ever see it," Mr. Sargent said of the prize. "Then when I got it, I thought I could cash it. And now I'm not sure. Whether I get the money or not, I feel blessed that God is still talking to me and taking care of me."

But he is human.

"Of course," he said, "it would help to have the money."


Attention Texas Lottery - Pay Mr. Sargent NOW - Quit Stalling.
Your "excuse" is unacceptable.

Tale of winning ticket combines faith, hope

Star-Telegram Austin Bureau
Posted on Thu, Dec. 08, 2005 - In paper Dec 9, 2005
(Comments in blue inserted by Dawn Nettles - The Lotto Report)

Mike Sargent fully appreciates the quotation from Job: “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away.” And Sargent says he has no doubt that the Lord will give again.

A self-described former ne’er-do-well, the 51-year-old Alvarado man purchased a $2 scratch-off lottery ticket last month at a convenience store near his home. The ticket turned out to be worth $25,000.

As soon as Sargent realized that he’d hit a winner, he signed the back of the ticket in the store clerk’s presence and made sure he included his address and phone number.

Then he headed outside to his car, where he called his wife, promising that he was on his way home with a mighty big pre-Christmas surprise.

Only the surprise turned out to be that Sargent had somehow lost his winning ticket.

So Sargent, who said that he rededicated his life to Christianity almost 20 years ago, returned to the store to hunt for the ticket.

He combed the parking lot and sifted through the outdoor trash bin. When darkness fell, he even called the Fire Department to see if a crew might focus floodlights on the parking lot so he could continue his search.

He was rebuffed.

“I could not believe that this was happening,” said Sargent, a facilities specialist for AT&T. “I felt like the Lord was really testing me.”

Sargent posted signs describing the ticket and offering a reward. His friends helped him comb the parking lot and the nearby roadsides. Then after four days, a water-meter reader contacted him and said he had found the ticket while making his rounds.

Sargent’s signature was blurred, but there was no doubt that it was the winning ticket, he said.

After giving the finder a $2,500 reward, Sargent took the ticket to the Texas Lottery Commission headquarters in Austin, hoping to collect his winnings. But he was told that because the ticket had been damaged, an investigation needed to be conducted, and that it could take up to eight weeks.

Sargent then contacted Dawn Nettles, publisher of the Lotto Report and a self-styled watchdog and critic of the Texas lottery.

Nettles said she advised Sargent to contact news media outlets “so the Lottery Commission does not drag its feet.”

“There’s no doubt that the ticket was a winner and that he’s the one who bought it,” Nettles said. “He needs to get his money.”

Lottery spokesman Bobby Heith said officials must investigate to protect the state’s interest.

“We’ve got to do it by the book,” Heith said. “That’s the only prudent thing to do.”(But you didn't do it by the book. If you had, Security would have greeted this man while he was at the claim center especially under these circumstances. But they were no where in sight. Why not? Also, why wasn't the winners picture taken?)

Sargent, who said he plans to donate part of his winnings to his church and other charitable entities, said the support he has received in his ticket recovery effort has bolstered his faith. This weekend, he will travel to California to see his father, who has a terminal illness.

“This whole thing has been an amazing experience for me,” Sargent said. “I’m at the point that, whether I get the money or not, I consider myself very blessed.”

What once was lost - lottery ticket -- now is found (Texas)
Liz Austin - Associated Press - Dec 8, 2005
Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN — Mike Sargent doesn't put much stock in karma. Luck isn't his thing either.

But in getting back a lost winning lottery ticket worth $25,000, a little of both may have come into play — along with some divine intervention.

Like the lead character in the new NBC sitcom My Name is Earl, Sargent lost the scratch-off ticket moments after he realized he'd hit the jackpot and, through several incredible coincidences, found it days later.

In the television show, losing the ticket inspires Earl, a downtrodden ne'er-do-well and petty thief, to right the wrongs he's committed throughout his life.

Sargent, a 51-year-old facilities specialist at AT&T, has demons in his past as well. A former drug addict and alcoholic, he admits being verbally abusive to his wife and two sons until he turned his life around 19 years ago, entering rehab and embracing his Christian faith.

Friends and his pastor's wife say he's now generous to a fault, giving to others even if it means doing without himself. He and his wife buy groceries for the church's needy families, and they set up a prison ministry shortly after their older son was sentenced a decade ago to 99 years behind bars for telling a friend to kill another boy.

"It doesn't matter, he'll put it on his credit card if you need anything," said Judy Russell, whose husband, Joe, is pastor of Calvary Temple in Lillian.

Sargent bought the winning Wheel of Fortune instant ticket on Nov. 15, scratching it off as he stood at the counter of the Venus Food Mart in his hometown of Alvarado, about 25 miles south of Fort Worth. He signed the ticket on the spot, filling in his name and address as he called his wife and said he was bringing her the best Christmas present ever.

By the time he drove the three miles home, however, the ticket was gone.

"I didn't know where it went," Sargent said. "I was thinking that God just took it out of my hand."

Sargent went back to the store, but the clerk was sure he'd left with the ticket. It was a windy night, so he dropped some losing tickets on the ground to see where they'd blow. As luck would have it, they wouldn't budge.

Still, he and a friend from church spent the rest of the night searching the fields along U.S. Highway 67, even calling 911 and asking the volunteer fire department to shine its fire truck lights on the search area after darkness fell. (The firefighters declined.)

The search continued for days. Friends combed the fields and roadside ditches, while Sargent and his neighbor sifted through all the garbage in the convenience store's Dumpster.

He posted signs all over town and even called a local radio station offering a $2,000 reward for the return of his ticket.

Finally, five days after he lost the ticket, Sargent got a call from Gerardo Ruiz, a water meter reader from Midlothian who found it while working five houses down from the store.

Ruiz hadn't seen the signs or heard Sargent on the radio. And his first thought wasn't to give the ticket back.

"I went home and I showed my wife and I said 'Look, Jesus gave us a $25,000 ticket,'" Ruiz recalled. "She said 'Well you better call that guy, maybe you can get a reward, because God is going to punish you if you don't return it.'"

When Ruiz asked for $2,500, Sargent didn't hesitate. He visited eight banks before he found one willing to give him a cash advance on his credit card, then he paid Ruiz, took back the ticket and immediately wrote a $1,750 check to his church.

His saga wasn't over, however. Between the time Sargent signed the ticket and when he got it back, his signature was partially scratched off; Ruiz speculated it happened when he stepped on the ticket with heavy work boots.

When Sargent took the ticket to the Texas Lottery's claims center in Austin on Nov. 21, officials told him they couldn't immediately honor a defaced ticket. He'd have to wait six to eight weeks for them to conduct forensic tests and prove he was the one who'd signed the

"What we want to do is to make sure, because of the integrity and the honesty and the security of the games, that the person that is the rightful owner of the ticket receives the funds if it is a valid winning ticket," lottery spokesman Bobby Heith said.

Sargent is hoping he gets the money in time for Christmas, but he and his wife aren't going to buy each other extravagant gifts. Instead, they plan to help a prisoner get a paralegal certificate and use the rest to pay off their credit card debt.

And he doubts he'll ever buy another lottery ticket.

"I kind of feel that I should have been using that for our charities instead of just throwing the money away," he said. "I think God was telling me ... that I need to be dependent on him and not on lotteries and jobs and anything else. God will always provide for me."

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Texas Lottery should be clear about jackpots
EDITORIAL BOARD - Austin American Statesman
Monday, December 05, 2005

The Texas Lottery, this state's legalized gambling operation, seems to reel from one fiasco to the next with hardly a pause.

After last summer's scandal over the lottery advertising false jackpots, sensible folks might think the lottery would be fastidious about playing fair and abiding by the rules. Lottery administrators might even go out of their way to rebuild trust in the game.

Then again, maybe they figure that lottery players are suckers anyway and one more trick wouldn't be any big deal. They might be right, but that doesn't excuse the way the Texas Lottery Commission runs its popular scratch-off games.

Scratch-off tickets are still being sold after the top prizes have already been claimed, which amounts to a sucker bet for those buying tickets for one of the many games. It would be a simple matter for the commission to insist that potential scratch-off ticket buyers be aware that there is no jackpot, only smaller prizes.

Lottery Commission spokesman Bob Heath defends the practice, saying the facts can be found in the small print on the back of the tickets and on the commission's Web site. That's a legal explanation but an ethical dodge.

Scratch-off players don't take time to read the ticket because they're busy finding out if they won. And you can bet that darn few check the commission's Web site on a regular basis to find out if the big prizes are still available. Lottery officials know that, too, which makes their position even less defensible. If they posted the truth in stores that the big prizes have been claimed, they'd sell fewer tickets.

Scratch-off games are the biggest part of the state's gambling operation, providing $2.7 billion in sales a year. That's three-quarters of the lottery's total sales. The commission has about 80 different scratch-off games to sell.

Five players sued the companies that run the lottery and manufacture the scratch-off tickets, but the suit was settled before a trial was convened. The defendants won't say what was agreed to in the settlement, but the deceptive practice continues.

Some states operate like Texas, but according to an article in the American-Statesman last week, 16 states pull scratch-off tickets after the jackpots have been claimed. That's the ethical position to take.

All the Lottery Commission has to do is insist that its ticket vendors post a sign in a prominent place noting that the big jackpots have been claimed. If individuals still want to play those particular games, they know the score.

As it is, thousands of people are buying scratch-off tickets without knowing they can't win the big prizes. That's just not fair to the people of Texas. Lottery officials ought to change that policy as soon as possible.

Buying a lottery ticket is always a long shot, but it shouldn't be a complete fraud.

Instant Millions Can't Halt Winners' Grim Slide

Published: December 5, 2005

CORBIN, Ky., Nov. 30 - For Mack W. Metcalf and his estranged second wife, Virginia G. Merida, sharing a $34 million lottery jackpot in 2000 meant escaping poverty at breakneck speed.

Years of blue-collar struggle and ramshackle apartment life gave way almost overnight to limitless leisure, big houses and lavish toys. Mr. Metcalf bought a Mount Vernon-like estate in southern Kentucky, stocking it with horses and vintage cars. Ms. Merida bought a Mercedes-Benz and a modernistic mansion overlooking the Ohio River, surrounding herself with stray cats.

But trouble came almost as fast. And though there have been many stories of lottery winners turning to drugs or alcohol, and of lottery fortunes turning to dust, the tale of Mr. Metcalf and Ms. Merida stands out as a striking example of good luck - the kind most people only dream about - rapidly turning fatally bad.

Mr. Metcalf's first wife sued him for $31,000 in unpaid child support, a former girlfriend wheedled $500,000 out of him while he was drunk, and alcoholism increasingly paralyzed him. Ms. Merida's boyfriend died of a drug overdose in her hilltop house, a brother began harassing her, she said, and neighbors came to believe her once welcoming home had turned into a drug den.

Though they were divorced by 2001, it was as if their lives as rich people had taken on an eerie symmetry. So did their deaths.

In 2003, just three years after cashing in his winning ticket, Mr. Metcalf died of complications relating to alcoholism at the age of 45. Then on the day before Thanksgiving, Ms. Merida's partly decomposed body was found in her bed. Authorities said they have found no evidence of foul play and are looking into the possibility of a drug overdose. She was 51.

Ms. Merida's death remains under investigation, and large parts of both her and Mr. Metcalf's lives remain wrapped in mystery. But some of their friends and relatives said they thought the moral of their stories was clear.

"Any problems people have, money magnifies it so much, it's unbelievable," said Robert Merida, one of Ms. Merida's three brothers.

Mr. Metcalf's first wife, Marilyn Collins, said: "If he hadn't won, he would have worked like regular people and maybe had 20 years left. But when you put that kind of money in the hands of somebody with problems, it just helps them kill themselves."

As a young woman, Ms. Merida lived with her family in Houston where her father, Dempsey Merida, ran a major drug-trafficking organization, law enforcement officials say. He and two of his sons, David and John, were indicted in 1983 and served prison sentences on drug-related convictions.

John Murphy, the first assistant United States attorney for the western district of Texas, who helped prosecute the case, said the organization smuggled heroin and cocaine into Texas using Mr. Merida's chain of auto transmission shops as fronts.

Mr. Murphy described Mr. Merida as a gruff, imposing man who tried to intimidate witnesses by muttering loudly in court. Mr. Merida received a 30-year sentence but was released in 2004 because of a serious illness, Mr. Murphy said. He died just months later in Kentucky at age 76.

When Dempsey Merida and his two sons went to prison, his wife moved the family to northern Kentucky. Virginia Merida married, had a son, was divorced and married again, to Mack Metcalf, a co-worker at a plastics factory. But he drank too much and disappeared for long stretches of time, friends of Ms. Merida said, leaving her alone to care for her son and mother.

She worked a succession of low-paying jobs, lived in cramped apartments, drove decrepit cars and struggled to pay rent. For his part, Mr. Metcalf drifted from job to job, living at one point in an abandoned bus.

Then one July day in 2000, a friend called Ms. Merida and gave her some startling news: Mr. Metcalf had the winning $3 ticket for a $65 million Powerball jackpot. Ms. Merida had refused to answer his calls, thinking he was drunk.

"Mack kept calling here, asking me to go tell Ginny that he had won the lottery," said Carolyn Keckeley, a friend of Ms. Merida. "She wouldn't believe him."

At the time, both were barely scraping by, he by driving a forklift and she by making corrugated boxes. But in one shot, they walked away with a cash payout of $34 million, which they split 60-40: he received about $14 million after taxes, while she got more than $9 million.

In a statement released by the lottery corporation, Mr. Metcalf said he planned to move to Australia. "I'm going to totally get away," he said.

But problems arrived almost immediately. A caseworker in Northern Kentucky saw Mr. Metcalf's photograph and recognized him as having been delinquent in child support payments to a daughter from his first marriage. The county contacted Mr. Metcalf's first wife and they took legal action that resulted in court orders that he pay $31,000 in child support and create a $500,000 trust fund for the girl, Amanda, his only child.

Ms. Collins, his first wife, said Mr. Metcalf abandoned the family when Amanda, now 21, was an infant, forcing them into near destitution. "I cooked dinner and set the table for six months for him, but he never came back," said Ms. Collins, 38. They were divorced in 1986.

Even as he was battling Ms. Collins in court, Mr. Metcalf was filing his own lawsuit to protect his winnings. In court papers, he asserted that a former girlfriend, Deborah Hodge, had threatened and badgered him until he agreed, while drunk, to give her $500,000.

Ms. Hodge vowed to call witnesses to testify that Mr. Metcalf had given money to other women as well. Mr. Metcalf's suit was dismissed after he walked out of a deposition, according to court papers.

Still, there were moments of happiness. Shortly after winning the lottery, he took Amanda shopping in Cincinnati, giving her $500 to buy clothing and have her nails done. "I had never held that kind of money before," Ms. Metcalf said. "That was the best day ever."

Pledging to become a good father, he moved to Corbin to be near Amanda, buying a 43-acre estate with a house modeled after Mount Vernon for $1.1 million. He collected all-terrain vehicles, vintage American cars and an eccentric array of pets: horses, Rottweilers, tarantulas and a 15-foot boa constrictor.

He also continued to give away cash. Neighbors recall him buying goods at a convenience store with $100 bills, then giving the change to the next person in line. Ms. Metcalf said she discovered boxes filled with scraps of paper in his home recording money he had given away, debts he would never collect.

His drinking got worse, and he became increasingly afraid that people were plotting to kill him, installing surveillance cameras and listening devices around his house, Ms. Metcalf said. Then in early 2003, he spent a month in the hospital for treatment of cirrhosis and hepatitis. After being released from the hospital, he married for the third time, but died just months later, in December.

Virginia Merida seemed to handle her money better. She repaid old debts, including $1,000 to a landlord who had evicted her years earlier. She told a friend she had set aside $1 million for retirement.

But she splurged enough to buy a Mercedes and a geodesic-dome house designed by a local architect in Cold Spring for $559,000. She kept the furnishings simple, neighbors said, but bought several arcade-quality video games for her son, Jason. For a time, Ms. Merida's mother lived with her as well.

"I was at her house a year after she moved in, and she said she hadn't even unpacked," said Mary Jo Watkins, a neighbor. "It was as if she didn't know how to move up."

Then in January, a live-in boyfriend, Fred Hill, died of an overdose of an opiate-related drug, according to a police report. No charges were filed, and officials said it was not clear if the opiate was heroin or a prescription drug. But neighbors began to believe that the house had become a haven for drug use or trafficking.

"I think we all suspected that some drug problems were going on there because so many people were coming and going," Ms. Watkins said.

In May, Ms. Merida filed a complaint in Campbell County Circuit Court against one of her brothers, David, saying that he had been harassing her. In June 16, a circuit court judge ordered both brother and sister to keep away from each other. It was unclear why she filed the complaint, and David Merida would not comment.

When Ms. Merida's son found her body on Nov. 23, she had been dead for several days, the county coroner's office said. There was no evidence of a break-in, or that she had been attacked, officials said. Toxicological studies on her remains will not be completed for several weeks.

It is unclear how much of Ms. Merida's estate remains, but it appears she saved some of it. That may not have been the case with Mr. Metcalf, his daughter said. Six months after his death, his house in Corbin was sold for $657,000, about half of what Mr. Metcalf had paid for it.

In a brief obituary in The Kentucky Enquirer, Ms. Merida's family described her simply as "a homemaker." On a black tombstone, Ms. Metcalf had this inscribed for her father, "Loving father and brother, finally at rest."

State probe, drug arrest trip up Powerball winner

Palm Beach Post
Staff Writer By Andrew Marra
Staff researcher Michelle Quigley and
The Washington Post contributed to this story
Saturday, December 03, 2005

In a tiny Kentucky town four years ago, a down-on-his-luck ex-convict named David Edwards stepped into a gas station and plunked down a few dollars for a handful of Powerball lottery tickets.

Days later, he was $27 million richer and full of grand plans. He married a woman 20 years younger, resolved to abandon his hard-luck-and-handcuffs days and bought, among other things, a $1.2 million home in a gated Palm Beach Gardens neighborhood.

"I'd starve to death underneath a bridge before I'd do anything illegal," Edwards told a reporter in late 2001.

He lived it up with fast cars, private planes and charitable giveaways. Earlier this year, he showed off his new home on a Learning Channel special: Lottery Homes.

But a host of recent troubles for Edwards — drugs, arrest, a child-welfare investigation — have underscored a stubborn truth for many who stumble on quick money: It's easier to escape the troubled places than to leave behind the troubled past.

Edwards, 50, and his 30-year-old wife, Shawna, were arrested last month at their home in the upscale Ballen Isles community after Palm Beach Gardens police found cocaine and heroin in their bedroom.

Officers had been called to the house because the state Department of Children and Families was conducting a child-abuse investigation. It was unclear what prompted the investigation.

Inside the house, officers found the Edwardses' bedroom full of syringes and needles, in addition to a small tin containing cocaine and heroin, according to a police report.

The Edwardses were raising two children in the house. Police notified DCF that the children were not in school and that there were drugs in a bedroom.

DCF said it would continue to investigate, according to the report. Neither parent has been charged with any crimes against the children.

The couple were booked into the Palm Beach County Jail Nov. 8 on charges of possessing cocaine and narcotic equipment. They were both out again by the next day.

It was the most ordinary of arrests in the most lavish of settings. For Edwards, who could not be reached for comment for this story, it was a throwback to his pre-Powerball days, when he was in and out of prison and living on the margins in Ashland, Ky.

Edwards never finished high school and got into a shootout with police as a teen. He divorced two women and served a series of prison stints — first for holding up a gas station in his hometown and then for violating parole.

Affable and slick-talking, he spent some of his life working for a paycheck. Other times, he didn't work at all.

When the big win came in August 2001, Edwards had been laid off as a fiber-optic installer. With his winnings he bought the house in Palm Beach Gardens and a fleet of sports cars — a Bentley, a Ferrari, a Lamborghini Diablo.

He also gave back. Checks for thousands of dollars were written for good causes in Kentucky: the Boys Club, the volunteer fire department, the elementary school.

"I've known David for years and years," said Ethel Maddux, Shawna Edwards' mother. "He's changed. Both of them have changed a lot."

She meant it mostly in a good way, citing the donations Edwards gave out. Terminally ill and living alone, Maddux said it is Edwards' money that pays for her wheelchair and her home in Ashland.

She knew that David and Shawna had occasional marital problems. In 2004, Shawna Edwards was arrested on a charge of domestic battery.

She did not know that in 2003, David had hired prominent attorney John Christiansen and filed for divorce.

The divorce is still pending, but the couple, from all appearances, are back together.

Texas Lottery Denies Cheating Lotto Texas Winners
But excerpts from Commission Meetings refutes the TLC claims
of innocence. The complete story including a winners complaint letter
to the DA. (Special note to those winners who called inquiring about
the way you were paid - your suspicions. I've included a spreadsheet
that includes the rate that was applicable at the time of your win
so you can now figure out if you received your full amount.
) Click here.

What is Problem Gambling? Click here.

Real Life Examples of Gambling Related Crime and Corruption. Click here.

Sad but True Winners Stories (1), Click here

Read story about a Texas $31 million winner
who committed suicide (1999). Click here.

Sad but True Winners Stories (AOL), Click here.

One Winner - One Loser - What a story.
Everyone should read this one.
Three other stories
include an interview with a winner, a news story
regarding the Oct 13 Lotto Texas machine malfunction
and the huge sales decline for New York's in state
Lotto game since joining MM.
Click here.

Store Owners and Employees Admit Stealing
$100,000 Powerball Ticket ...
Don't let this happen
to you. Click here.

Canada Has A Gambling Problem. And so will Texas.
Governments hooked on gambling. Here's WHY we need to oppose
expanded gambling in Texas and why the TLC turns me OFF.
Click here

About that 2005 Texas Lottery Demographics Study.
See what the "real" truth was! A Texas Tech Study. Click here.

Thank You Dallas Morning News ... Their study of lottery sales
by districts confirms who really plays the games of Texas. Click here.

Just point and click ...

The Lotto Report
Dawn Nettles
P. O. Box 495033
Garland, Texas 75049-5033
(972) 686-0660
(972) 681-1048 Fax