Mega Millions Winners Merle and Patricia Butler Giggled for Four Hours (ABC News)
BALTIMORE (AP) — Two public school teachers and a school administrator who call themselves "The Three Amigos" are sharing the spoils of last month's record Mega Millions jackpot, planning trips to Europe, new homes and children's college educations, Maryland Lottery officials said Tuesday.
The Maryland winners claimed their proceeds Monday and chose to remain anonymous, but the lottery agency shared some details in a news conference, including the fact that each of the three friends works multiple jobs to make ends meet.
"If it can't be you, these people are precisely the people you would want to see win," Maryland Lottery director Stephen Martino said.
The winning Maryland ticket is one of three nationally that split the $656 million jackpot, the biggest in Mega Millions history. The other winners in the March 30 drawing were picked in Kansas and Illinois. Kansas' winner claimed a share of the jackpot Friday, but also decided to remain anonymous. Nobody has come forward in Illinois, where winners have one year to claim a jackpot.
One Maryland winner is a special education teacher, one is an elementary school teacher and the third is a school administrator. All three said they plan to continue to work, noting that they were committed to their students, Martino said.
"One said 'I can't give up on my kids," he said.
The winners had watched the news coverage over the last week — including stories about a Baltimore woman who claimed initially to have the ticket, then said she had lost it — and joked with each other, knowing that they had the winning ticket, Martino said. He said the woman who was in the news last week is not a winner. Calls by the Associated Press on Tuesday to the woman, Mirlande Wilson, and her lawyer were not immediately returned.
Martino said the Maryland winners bought 60 tickets in three locations as a pool. The winning ticket came from a 7-Eleven store in Milford Mill outside Baltimore. Each of the three will receive a lump sum payment of $35 million after taxes.
One winner, a woman in her 20s, spread the tickets out on her floor to check them immediately after the drawing on March 30. When she realized one ticket was a winner she called her friends, a man in his 40s and a woman in her 50s. The second woman told lottery officials she had forgotten about the drawing and went to sleep, but was awakened by her phone ringing and ringing.
She didn't believe the other winners at first, thinking it was an early April Fool's joke, but they told her they were on their way over, Martino said. They signed copies of the winning ticket and one woman put the winning ticket in a safe at her mother's home. The trio also contacted a financial advisor, who got in touch with lottery officials.
When they went to lottery headquarters on Monday, one woman carried the winning ticket in an envelope in her purse and the other 59 in a separate envelope, Martino said. Officials checked, but they won just one more dollar.
Martino described the winners as cheerful and humble and a little overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. One told officials that she had recently made a quiet prayer for help paying the bills.
"Clearly, this will pay the bills," he said.
.The trio plan to invest their winnings, but they also plan to fulfill a few dreams. The man told lottery officials that he planned to help his children with college expenses, pay off his house and buy his sister a house. One woman planned to go backpacking through Europe with her brother and the other woman plans to tour Italy's wine country.