On January 13, 2016, the largest Powerball jackpot in history was drawn. The jackpot had reached $1.58 billion after rolling continually after the Avondale Revocable Trust won the Powerball jackpot in Tennesse on November 4, 2015. Three winning tickets were sold in the January billion-dollar jackpot. One was sold in Munford, Tennessee; one in Melbourne Beach, Florida; and one in Chino Hill, California. To this day, only the Tennessee and Florida winners have come forward to claim their prize. The California winner has yet to claim their share of the $1.58 billion jackpot that has been split three ways and amounts to $528,784,000 million each.
Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt claimed their share in Florida and John and Lisa Robinson of Tennessee claimed their winnings, but the California winner hasn’t come forward, prompting some to ask the question if the winner is dead.
— Mary Turner (@thesaleswhopper) February 5, 2016
The California state lottery released a press statement on January 13, 2016, announcing the winning Powerball jackpot ticket had been sold in Chino Hills, California, and that the winner would receive $528.8 million or a one-time lump-sum payment of $327.8 million.
“One California Lottery player is part of history tonight as they will take away at least some of the record-breaking $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot. The lucky ticket was purchased at the 7-Eleven located at 4092 Chino Hills Parkway in Chino Hills (San Bernardino County).
“The ticket matched the winning numbers 04-08-19-27-34 and Powerball number 10 for tonight’s draw, which took place earlier tonight in Tallahassee, Florida.
“This winning player will be splitting the $1.586 billion with winners in Tennessee and Florida meaning the jackpot if, taken out over 30 years, is worth $528.8 million or a one-time payment of $327.8 million.”
Media excitement and near pandemonium ensued as people, photographers, and journalists flocked to the Chino Hills 7-Eleven to interview the retailer who sold the winning ticket with the hope that the winner would come forward to stake his or her claim on their share of the $1.58 billion Powerball jackpot. The winner would not make a public appearance, and focus soon shifted to the Tennessee winners, Lisa and John Robinson, who quickly came forward to claim their share of the Powerball jackpot.
On January 14, the Tennessee Lottery released a statement confirming the Munford Powerball jackpot winners.
“A Tennessee Lottery player who purchased a Powerball ticket in Munford in Tipton County will share the historic, world record-breaking jackpot of $1.58 BILLION with a winner in California and a winner Florida, after the drawing held Wednesday, January 13. The three lucky winners will split the colossal jackpot resulting in $528.8 million prize for each winner. This is the second Powerball jackpot winner in Tennessee in a row.
“Also in Tennessee, there was one $2 million winner, one $100,000 winner and 17 $50,000 winners. No information is known about the Tennessee winners until the prize is claimed.
“Information about the retailer that sold the winning ticket will be released after all required security procedures are complete.”
As the Tennessee Powerball winners were publicly celebrating their win and appearing on national talk shows like Today, social media networks were exploding with rumors that the California Powerball winner had died. The going rumor was that the winner had claimed an upfront cash payment, took out a loan against the winnings, bought a massive amount of cocaine, and partied until he overdosed.
— snopes.com (@snopes) January 17, 2016
Scam and false news sites began reporting that a man named James Hugston overdosed. Here is the story as it was falsely reported.
“1 of the 3 $1.5B Powerball jackpot winners was found in his new multi-million dollar home dead of an accidental cocaine overdose.
“32-Year-old James Hugston was 1 of the 3 lucky winners to hit the billion dollar jackpot. He received an estimated $327 million lump sum. Now most people are aware it takes 4-8 weeks to collect your money after you put in a claim. But Mr. Hugston couldn’t wait and took out a loan from a money lender to start blowing his millions immediately. His first purchase was a multi-million dollar furnished home.
“Rick Kingston a close friends of James said he was trying to keep his identity a secret and was doing it well by quickly moving out his 2 bedroom apartment where he lived with his girlfriend who he broke up with once he won.
“At the multi-million dollar home where James Hugston was found dead over a kilo of cocaine was found close friend Rick Kingston said ‘James went crazy fast! First he bought this huge house then cocaine and invited over 10 hookers from backpage’ a website know for prostitution.”
According to Snopes, the story was first reported by the fake news site TMZWorldsstar.com. As the Powerball winners from Florida and Tennessee have come forward, more people are believing there is truth to the report that the California Powerball winner has died.
As the internet reeled with the news that the California Powerball winner died, people also marveled at the incredible win of the Tennessee Powerball winners and devoured news about the couple as they appeared on shows such as Today and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The Florida winners didn’t go public with their story about their win until mid-February.
The winning Florida Powerball couple, Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt, accepted their win under the name the Nickel 95 Trust and spoke at a live press conference in Tallahassee, Florida, where they were presented with their winning check. Meanwhile, people continued to speculate on the whereabouts of the California Powerball winner. You can watch the Florida press conference with Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt below.
RT NyashaDube8 What a Florida couple will do with their huge Powerball prize & WHERE is the California winner? Ahe… pic.twitter.com/QY2bTL4QCF
— John Harris (@winthenextlotto) February 18, 2016
The California Lottery offers a winner’s packet for those who win large jackpots such as those with the Powerball. The winner’s packet provides information regarding how long the winner’s have to claim their prizes. This differs from state to state, and according to the winners’ packet, California Powerball winners have up to one year to collect their winnings. It could be the California Powerball winner is simply getting more information, performing research, and taking steps to ensure that when they do collect their Powerball winnings, they do so legally and have the best financial counsel available. The California Powerball winner has not come forward yet, was not a man named James Hugston, and has not overdosed on cocaine. With up to one year to collect the winnings, there is no way to know or predict when the California Powerball winner will come forward.
[Image via Pressmaster/Shutterstock]