After making a pilgrimage to Mecca to fulfill his sacred duty as a Muslim, Indian immigrant Urooj Khan swore off gambling. But the Illinois Lottery’s $3 Million Cash Jackpot last May offered a final temptation. “Didn’t you say you don’t gamble anymore?” clerk Ashur Oshana teased as Khan, 46, owner of three dry cleaning stores in Chicago, purchased two $30 scratch-off tickets at a 7-Eleven, then shrieked, “I won a million dollars!” A check for his post-tax haul, $424,499, was cut on July 19. But, says lottery spokesman Mike Lang, “it’s unlikely Khan ever saw the actual check.” Instead, after a curry dinner on July 20 cooked by his wife, Khan awoke shrieking in pain, then died hours later.
Initially attributed to natural causes, Khan’s death is now the focus of a murder investigation, tripped when his brother asked the medical examiner to probe deeper. When pathologists then found cyanide in blood tested after Khan died, his body was exhumed on Jan. 18, leaving relatives eyeing one another with suspicion. Court records reveal the family argued for months over Khan’s estate, while his sister claims the only ones home the night he died were his wife, Shabana Ansari, 32, his daughter Jasmeen, 17, and his wife’s father, Fareedun Ansari, 72, who, records show, was thousands of dollars in debt. Even more intriguing, say sources: All but Khan skipped the meal. Ansari and her father have denied any role in Khan’s death. “No one would dare kill him,” she says. While investigators await exhumation results, there’s only one certainty. “Poisons are premeditated weapons,” says forensic toxicologist John Trestrail III. “It takes a great deal of planning.”