News Column

Poisoned Lottery Winner to Be Exhumed

Jan. 18, 2013

Jeremy Gorner

The body of a West Rogers Park, Ill., man who died of cyanide poisoning last summer after winning a million-dollar lottery will be exhumed Friday morning at a Far North Side cemetery so authorities can try to gather more evidence about his mysterious death.

Urooj Khan's remains will be unearthed beginning at about 7 a.m. at Rosehill Cemetery, county officials said. The Cook County medical examiner's office will conduct an autopsy in the afternoon at its Near West Side facility.

In court papers last week, Chief Medical Examiner Stephen J. Cina said the remains had to be exhumed "as expeditiously as possible" because Khan's body was not embalmed.

The Tribune broke the story on Jan. 7about Khan's death, sparking international interest in the murder mystery.

The medical examiner's office initially ruled that Khan's death July 20 was from hardening of the arteries when there were no signs of trauma on the body and a preliminary blood test did not raise any questions. But the investigation was reopened about a week later, after a relative suggested to authorities that Khan's death "may have been the result of poisoning," prosecutors said in a court filing seeking the exhumation.

The medical examiner's office contacted Chicago police Sept. 11 after additional testing showed cyanide in Khan's blood. By late November, even more testing showed lethal levels of the toxic chemical. The medical examiner's office then declared the death a homicide.

Khan's widow, Shabana Ansari, who has hired a criminal defense lawyer, told the Tribune last week that she had been questioned for more than four hours by detectives and answered all their questions. She said the detectives had asked her about ingredients she used to prepare her husband's last meal of lamb curry.

In addition to Ansari, her father, Fareedun Ansari, and Khan's daughter from a previous marriage, Jasmeen, 17, lived in the residence at the time of his death.

While a motive has not been determined, police have not ruled out that Khan was killed because of his lottery win, a law enforcement source has told the Tribune. He died before he could collect the winnings -- a lump-sum payment of about $425,000 after taxes.

Khan's wife and father-in-law have denied involvement in his death.



Source: (c)2013 the Chicago Tribune Distributed by MCT Information Services


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