The last of the Mega Millions lottery winners are Merle and Patricia Butler, a married couple from Red Bud, Ill., and they came forward to claim their share in the biggest jackpot in lottery history today.
The lifelong residents of Red Bud discovered they had won the night of the drawing with a $3 quickpick ticket. They watched the numbers be read on the news and Merle Butler, 65, jotted down the numbers on a pad. He went to his wallet to get the tickets and immediately noticed he had the Mega Ball number.
"I thought, 'I might win something," Merle Butler said at the news conference. "The further I went, the more they matched. After I looked at it for a couple minutes, I turned to my wife and said, 'We won.'"
"She kind of looked at me funny and I said, 'No, we won.' And then she started giggling," Merle Butler said with a laugh. "She giggled for about four hours."
The couple stayed up all night watching the news and surfing the Internet to find out how many winners they would be sharing their prize with. By 6 a.m., they knew there were two other winning tickets and they took theirs to a bank lock box first thing in the morning.
Merle Butler recalled a teller jokingly asking if they had come to lock up their winning ticket.
He laughed and said lightly, "Yeah, I won and I have to put this thing away." The teller laughed, not knowing he was telling the truth.
The newly-minted multimillionaires decided or a one-time lump sum of $157.8 million.
The couple only told five family members and close friends that they had won. When it was announced that one of the three winning tickets had been sold in Red Bud, the mystery winner became the talk of the town.
"People kept asking me if I won and I kept laughing it off and saying, 'Yeah, sure. I won it," Merle Butler said. "I've answered most of them truthfully that yes I did, but they didn't catch it."
For the next three weeks, the couple quietly worked with out-of-town legal and financial advisers before coming forward. Butler, a retired computer analyst, said that the win has been like "another full-time job."
"I'm not looking for sympathy, I'm just saying it's a bit of work to set all this up," he said.
The couple were coy about how they would spend the money, saying they had a good team of financial advisers and lawyers that were helping them set things up. They did say that they loved their hometown and had no plans to move.
The couple were required to have their identities revealed and appear at a news conference today. Illinois officials have said winners are required to come forward in order to prove to the public that the money is being rewarded.
The other two Mega Million lottery winners were from Kansas and Maryland and those states do not require the winner to go public.
The drawing for the world's largest jackpot was on March 30. The winning numbers were 2-4-23-38-46 and the Mega Ball number was 23.
The Kansas winner was the first to claim a piece of the prize on April 6.
Kansas Lottery authorities presented a jumbo check for an estimated $218 million to a cardboard poster figure with a smiley-face head and the words "anonymous jackpot winner" printed on its chest.
Lottery officials would not reveal the gender, age or any other details about the winner, saying only that the winner played "quite often," but not "a lot." The winner chose to take the cash option of $157 million.
The Maryland prize was claimed on April 9 by three teachers, identified as the "Three Amigos." Lottery officials released a photo of them holding an oversized check in front of their faces.
The winners were a man in his 40s, a woman in her 20s and a woman in her 50s and they had pooled their money to buy 60 tickets.
The Maryland trio chose the cash option of $158 million. After taxes, they will take home a little less than $35 million each.