Missouri couple wins Powerball millions

2:06 PM, Nov 30, 2012   |    comments
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by Rick Jervis and Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

Mark Hill, a 52-year-old Missouri mechanic, and his wife, Cindy, claimed their share Friday of the record $587.5 million Powerball jackpot.

The Missouri couple, who had been in and out of work the past two years, randomly chose numbers through Quick Pick to win one of the richest lottery prizes in U.S. history.

The Hills split the winnings with another ticketholder who bought a ticket in Arizona. That person hadn't come forward as of noon Friday.

Each ticketholder is entitled to $294 million, which they can receive in a lump-sum cash payout or in annual payouts over 30 years. Cindy Hill said they'll opt for the lump-sum payout, which totals about $192 million before taxes.

"We're still stunned by what's happened," Cindy Hill said at a press conference Friday with Mark, her three grown sons and adopted daughter, Jaden. "It's surreal. We haven't even thought about what to buy. I just want to be back home and be back to normal."

Mark Hill, 52, a maintenance worker, said he called his boss when he found out he had won to tell him he wasn't coming back to work. The Hills have set up college funds for their grandchildren, nephews and nieces and are planning a few vacations.

Jaden also gets what she wanted for Christmas: a pony.

Cindy Hill initially spoke for the family when they stepped into the limelight with their three sons and their daughter in the gym at North Platte High School, where Mark and Cindy had once been high school sweethearts.

Today, she described them as a hard working family that "knows the value of a dollar." Besides college funds and some travel, the couple said they would support charitiesin the adoption field. Jaden was adopted from China.

The news is still sinking in, the family said, as they described their initial disbelief and delight. Cindy Hill says when she heard the winning numbers, she didn't have her glasses on. She re-enacted how she squinted at a ticket and asked herself over and over, "Are those the right numbers?"

She drove to her mother's to get another set of eyes on the ticket, woke up her stunned husband and then word spread through the family by phone and text. Any effort to stay hush-hush was blown when Mark posted the news on his Facebook page. But, as one son said, "I hope we stay the great people we were yesterday and the day before."

The Hills will split the jackpot with another ticket holder -- still unidentified -- in Arizona

The St. Joseph News-Press and Fox 26 KNPN say Hill works for the Hillshire Brands factory in St. Joseph. Dearborn, where only 496 residents live on about two dozen blocks, is carved into farmland between Kansas City and St. Joseph. The ticket was sold at a Trex Mart near I-29 just a few miles west of town.

Friends and neighbors of Hill and his family told the TODAY show they know the jackpot winner are sports lovers who might have based their number picks on the uniform numbers of great Kansas City Royals players. But Cindy says she picked her numbers at random although they're big Royals fans.

LUCKY TEAM?: Winning numbers match Royals

Myron Anderson, pastor of the Baptist Church in nearby Camden Point, said he heard Thursday that the Hills had won the huge lottery prize. Anderson said he has known Mark Hill since they attended high school together and that the couple have older children and a younger elementary school-age daughter.

"He's a really nice guy, and I know his wife, and they have this nice little adopted daughter that they went out of their way to adopt," Anderson said. Funeral services for Hill's father were at the Baptist church, but the family attends church elsewhere, he said.

"I hope it's good news for them," Anderson said. "I've heard awful horror stories about people who get all that money in their lap and how everybody treats them, and if you don't mind me saying, I mean just the fact that the press is going to be after them."

Kevin Bryan, a lifelong Dearborn resident, said the only other local lottery winner he could remember was a farmer who won about $100,000 in scratch-off game years ago "and bought himself a combine."

Hill and the holder of the Arizona winning ticket have numerous decisions ahead, including how to accept their new wealth. The cash payout from the overall jackpot has been estimated at about $385 million, or about $192.5 million for each ticket. The winners can take their jackpots in lump sums or annual payments.

David Troutman, who says is a former North Platte High School classmate of the Hills, told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie, "He was just an all-around good guy. He was into football, sports. I was on Facebook and I saw that his wife had posted, 'Thank you God, we won the lottery.' Of course everybody in town, all his friends, gave all thumbs up. It couldn't have happened to a better guy."

Troutman described the couple as sweethearts since their youth at the school where lottery officials held their press conference in the gym. The couple has three adult children and a 6-year-old girl they adopted from China.

"Word spread that he won so fast,'' Troutman said. "I heard that it was a winner from Dearborn, and by the time I walked in the door my mom was on the phone, and she said, 'He won. It was him.' Who knows what the impact will be on Dearborn."

NBC News also interviewed a woman who is the mother of the rumored winner. She described how her daughter-in-law arrived with the thrilling news.

"She came by here and she was shaking when I opened the door,'' said the woman, whose name was not released publicly.

Cindy Hill said she picked the numbers at random so it's just coincidental that they match up well with some Royals stars: George Brett (5); Mark Gubicza (16); Bo Jackson (22); Dennis Leonard (29), Dan Quisenberry (29); and Willie Wilson (6).

Kansas City's spring training home also happens to be in Arizona, where lottery officials reported the other winning ticket was sold. So far no Arizona winner has been confirmed.

That may be because the ticket holder is taking the advice from Arizona Lottery spokesman Karen Bach: "Be thoughtful and make some plans. We recommend they seek out a financial adviser.''

Meanwhile, the 4 Sons Food Store in Fountain Hills, Ariz., where the second winning ticket was sold, has been the scene of a media frenzy. Fountain Hills, northeast of Phoenix, is a scenic suburb nestled between mountains and a Native American casino on the Valley's northeast fringe. Seitz estimates 90-95 percent of his customers at the store are Fountain Hills residents and he said that many of them are well-known to employees.

The store's owners receive a $25,000 bonus for selling the winning jackpot ticket. Co-owner Eric Seitz hinted it might go toward contributions to charities or bigger Christmas bonuses for employees might be good options

Seitz, the chain's general manager, said he does not know who bought the winning ticket, but lottery officials told him it was purchased within 36 hours of Tuesday night's drawing.

"It's fun. I'm happy someone won in Fountain Hills and Arizona. It's a blast,'' he said. "It's good luck for Arizona's side. Maybe it's turning around for us.''

Customer Lori Derwent of Fountain Hills, said she is happy for the winner, regardless of who that might be, and hopes it is someone who could use the money.

"I think it's great. In these kind of times, especially around Christmas, it's nice to see a little bit of Christmas magic,'' said Derwent, who was busy working on Tuesday and did not buy a ticket.

Wednesday's winner in Arizona will have 60 days to chose between a 30-year annuity or a lump-sum cash payment.


Contributing: Associated Press, Jim Walsh and Cassondra Strande, The Arizona Republic-12 News Breaking News Team

Copyright 2012 USA TODAY

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