Powerball Winner Says He's Cursed

"I've had over 400 legal claims made on me or one of my companies since I've won the lottery, " said Whittaker.

When asked why that might happen, Whittaker said it's because "everybody wants something for nothing."

'I Just Didn't Care'

As his company's reputation was challenged by lawsuits, Whittaker began drinking heavily to console himself. At night, he made the rounds of the local bars throwing money around everywhere he went.

"I just got to the point that I just couldn't tolerate what was happening to me anymore," he said. "I would fly off the handle and if somebody wanted to fight me, I'd fight them. I just didn't care."

Whittaker alienated just about everyone in town, and things came to a head when he left his car running in front of the Pink Pony strip club and more than $2,000 in cash was stolen.

"I parked my car in the middle of the driveway, I went in to get me a drink to go, and I was drugged and my briefcase was stolen," Whittaker said.

The money was recovered, but the luckiest man in West Virginia was left friendless and lonely. It seemed as if everyone still wanted a piece of his winnings, but the one person Whittaker was determined to share every moment of his good fortune with was his granddaughter.

"What I really enjoyed the most was … watching Brandi enjoy it," he said.

Whittaker bought and decorated an elaborate home for Bragg and her mother that included a perfect recreation of the bottle from the 1960's TV sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie." He also gave Brandi about $2,000 a week and bought her four new cars. Whittaker said while Bragg was only 17 years old at the time, she was very responsible with her money.

"To a young kid cars mean a lot," Whittaker said. "She had four cars and I'm very proud that she had four cars."

Downward Spiral

According to her friends, Bragg's cars and cash began to attract the attention of some "bad people," including drug dealers.

Whittaker said, "She was bitter because she had lost some of her friends, I mean the drug dealers, just ganged up on her because of me."

Bragg started to use illegal drugs. Whittaker repeatedly tried to get her help and sent her to several treatment programs, but she couldn't stay clean.

"She doesn't want to be in charge of the money; she doesn't want to inherit the money; she just looks for her next drugs," Whittaker said. "She said, 'Pawpaw, all I care about is drugs.' It broke my heart."

Bragg's friend Jessie Tribble was a drug user too. In September 2003, Tribble was found dead of a drug overdose in a house owned by Whittaker. Tribble's father believes that his son might be alive today if he hadn't had access to Bragg and her weekly allowance.

"I'm going to say this with total conviction. I blame her for my son's death. I hold her accountable," he said.

Whittaker doesn't feel responsible for Tribble's death.

"The house was closed down," he said. "They didn't have permission to be in my house."

The Powerball Curse?

Almost two years after Whittaker hit the jackpot, Bragg disappeared. After a frantic two-week search, on Dec. 20, 2004, she was found dead, wrapped in a plastic sheet, dumped behind a junked van. The cause of death was listed as unknown. Whittaker believes that the Powerball win had become a curse upon his family.

"My granddaughter is dead because of the money," he said.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...