Retired Illinois couple claims huge lottery prize

Wed Apr 18, 2012 6:05pm EDT
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By Bruce Olson

RED BUD, Illinois (Reuters) - A retired couple in a southern Illinois town claimed their one-third share of a record $656 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot on Wednesday, saying they would invest most of the windfall and possibly buy a new car.

Merle Butler, 65, a former insurance agent, and Patricia Butler, 62, who worked at several companies, retiring nearly five years ago from investment firm Edwards Jones, are the only winners of the March 30 jackpot to publicly identify themselves.

Illinois requires winners' identities to be revealed. The holders of the two other winning tickets, in Kansas and Maryland, chose to remain anonymous.

The one-third of the prize won by the Butlers would amount to $218.6 million if paid in 26 annual installments. They chose, however, to take a lump sum payment of $157.9 million, which will be reduced to $110.5 million after federal and state taxes.

At a news conference in Red Bud, located about 36 miles south of St. Louis, Merle Butler said he usually only plays the lottery when the jackpot hits about $150 million.

"I was retired but now it looks like I have a new full-time job," said Merle Butler, 65, referring to managing the money. The couple waited three weeks to come forward after the drawing in order to consult financial and legal advisors, he added.

The Butlers plan to make no major changes in their lives and said they would use some of the money to help their children and grandchildren.

Married for 41 years, the couple has spent all their lives in Red Bud, a tidy farming and manufacturing community of 3,700 people that is named for the trees that tower over the town.   Continued...

Mega Millions Jackpot winner Merle Butler (R) and his wife Patricia pose with their check along with Red Bud Mayor Tim Lowry (L) and Illinois Lottery superintendent Michael Jones during a press conference at Red Bud City Hall in Red Bud, Illinois, April 18, 2012. REUTERS/Illinois Lottery/Handout