Poisoned Lotto Winner’s Autopsy Exam Completed
(CHICAGO) -- The autopsy of Urooj Khan's body, a lottery winner who was poisoned with cyanide, was conducted after his body was exhumed Friday morning from the Rose Hill Cemetery in Chicago.
Dr. Stephen Cina, Cook County Chief Medical Examiner, said enough tissue samples were recovered from Khan's body to proceed with further testing.
The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office is trying to find more details about his death, such as whether the poison was inhaled, swallowed, or injected.
Khan, 46, was an immigrant from India who owned dry-cleaning businesses in Chicago. He was announced the winner of a million-dollar lottery jackpot in June and chose to take the lump sum payout amounting to $425,000 after taxes.
When he died on July 20 in Chicago, the medical examiner's office believed he had died of natural causes. It wasn't until after he was buried that a family member asked the office to conduct further tests. After examining fluid samples, the office found a lethal level of cyanide and Khan's death was declared a homicide.
Cina said his office was "done with our examination." However, the autopsy results could take "several weeks" to be completed. A spokeswoman said it could take two to three weeks to get the results.
The exhumation took place at 8 a.m. ET Friday. Cina said it took "a couple hours" to remove Khan's body, who was buried according to Muslim tradition. His body was wrapped in a shroud and not embalmed. He was in a wooden coffin that included Styrofoam in the lid, all in a cement vault.
Cina hosted a press conference at 3:30 p.m. ET to discuss the condition of Khan's body and whether they were able to obtain good blood and tissue samples for further testing. Cina said how the cyanide entered Khan's body could have affected his manner of death, such as whether he had ingested it with a meal.
"I don't know if it was or if it wasn't," Cina said of whether the poison was mixed with food.
Cina said he also took samples of the dirt around the coffin to assure that microbes in the dirt did not produce cyanide.
Khan's family said they were suspicious after he died.
"He was a healthy guy, you know?" his nephew Minhaj Khan told ABC News last week. "He worked so hard. He was always going about his business and, the thing is: After he won the lottery and the next day later he passes away -- it's awkward. It raises some eyebrows."
Khan reportedly did not have a will. With the investigation moving forward, his family is waging a legal fight against his widow, Shabana Ansari, 32, over more than $1 million, including his lottery winnings, as well as his business and real estate holdings.
Khan's brother filed a petition last week to a judge asking Citibank to release information about Khan's assets to "ultimately ensure" that [Khan's] minor daughter from a prior marriage "receives her proper share."
Ansari may have tried to cash the jackpot check after Khan's death, according to court documents, which also showed Urooj Khan's family is questioning if the couple was ever even legally married.
Ansari, Urooj Khan's second wife, who still works at the couple's dry cleaning business, has insisted they were married legally.
She has told reporters the night before her husband died, she cooked a traditional Indian meal for him and their family, including Khan's daughter and Ansari's father. Not feeling well, Khan retired early, Ansari told the Chicago Sun-Times, falling asleep in a chair, waking up in agony, then collapsing in the middle of the night. She said she called 911.
"It has been an incredibly hard time," she told ABC News last week. "We went from being the happiest the day we got the check. It was the best sleep I've had. And then the next day, everything was gone.
"I am cooperating with the investigation," Ansari told ABC News. "I want the truth to come out."
Ansari has not been named a suspect, but her attorney, Steven Kozicki, said investigators did question her for more than four hours last year.
"Absolutely, positively, you know, she had nothing to do with her husband's death," Kozicki said.
Despite the legal battle over the estate, Minhaj Khan said the family "can't really point fingers or we can't really speculate until a further investigation is done."
"When they are exhuming his body, I really hope the truth does come out, and our family finds some peace and we get to the bottom of this," he said. "Because everybody has to go one day, but the way that he died was not the way to go."
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