Missouri couple claims half of $588 million Powerball prize


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Originally Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2012, 9:34 am
Last Updated: Nov. 30, 2012, 5:43 pm
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DEARBORN, Mo. (AP) — Cindy Hill, a laid-off office manager who lives in a small town in Missouri, called her husband Thursday with urgent news that would change everything: "We won the lottery."

"What?" he asked.

"We won the lottery," she repeated. But Mark Hill, a 52-year-old mechanic who works at a meat processing plant, is the kind of person who carefully checks the prices for everything he buys, and he needed proof. This is the "Show-Me State" after all.

He drove to his mother's house, where his wife was waiting with their quick-pick ticket, and confirmed for himself that the numbers matched those drawn for a record $588 million Powerball jackpot that they'll share with an unknown winner who bought a ticket in Arizona.

Missouri lottery officials officially introduced the Hills as winners Friday in front of reporters and townspeople gathered at the high school in Dearborn, which is about 40 miles north of Kansas City. The announcement was not a surprise. The Hills' name began circulating Thursday, soon after lottery officials said a winning ticket had been sold at a Trex Mart gas station and convenience store on the edge of town.

The Hills chose to take their winnings in a lump sum, not annual payments. Lottery officials estimated the cash payment at about $385 million, or about $192.5 million for each ticket.

The oversized novelty check handed to the Hills on Friday was written in the amount of $293,750,000, but Missouri Lottery spokeswoman Susan Goedde said that after taxes, they will receive about $136.5 million.

"We're still stunned by what's happened," said Cindy Hill, 51, who was laid off in June 2010. "It's surreal."

The couple have three grown sons and a 6-year-old daughter they adopted from China five years ago. They said they are now considering a second adoption with their winnings, and they plan to help other relatives, including their grandchildren and nieces and nephews, pay for college. They're planning vacations, and their daughter, Jaiden, wants a pony. Mark Hill has his eye on a red Camaro.

More immediately, they're preparing for "a pretty good Christmas" and anticipating an onslaught of requests for financial help.

"When it's that big of a Powerball, you're going to get people coming out of the woodwork, some of them might not be too sane," Cindy Hill said. "We have to protect our family and grandkids."

The jackpot was the second-largest in U.S. history and set off a nationwide buying frenzy, with tickets at one point selling at nearly 130,000 per minute. The other winning ticket was sold at 4 Sons Food Store in Fountain Hills near Phoenix. No one has come forward with it yet, lottery officials said.

Before Wednesday's drawing, the jackpot had rolled over 16 consecutive times without someone hitting the jackpot.

Myron Anderson, pastor of the Baptist Church in nearby Camden Point, said he heard Thursday that the Hills had won the huge prize. Anderson said he has known Mark Hill since they attended high school together.

"He's a really nice guy, and I know his wife, and they have this nice little adopted daughter that they went out of their way to adopt," Anderson said. Funeral services for Hill's father were at the Baptist church, but the family attends church elsewhere, he said.

"I hope it's good news for them," Anderson said. "I've heard awful horror stories about people who get all that money in their lap and how everybody treats them, and if you don't mind me saying, I mean just the fact that the press is going to be after them."

To announce one of the biggest events of their lives together, Cindy and Mark Hill returned to the place where it all began — the high school where they became sweethearts in the 1970s.

The nostalgic high school homecoming seemed to reflect the couple's hopes of staying true to their roots and living simply, at least as simply as possible for winners of one of the biggest lottery prizes in history.

"We will still be going down to the corner cafe for breakfast or fish day. I can guarantee you," Cindy Hill said. "You know it's just us. We're just normal human beings. We're as common as anybody. We just have a little bit more money."

The Hills, who have three grown sons and a 6-year-old daughter, said they don't play the lottery regularly. They spent $10 on five tickets with random numbers. 

The result: After taxes, they will take home a lump sum of $136.5 million.

"We're still stunned by what's happened," said Hill, a former office manager who was laid off in 2010. "It's surreal."

The other winning ticket was sold in Fountain Hills, Ariz., near Phoenix. No one has come forward with it yet, lottery officials said.

Joining the Hills at the news conference were their children, with the youngest, Jaiden, sitting on her father's lap clutching a black stuffed horse. She was adopted from China five years ago.

When asked what she wanted for Christmas, the little girl said simply: "Pony."

Friday's news conference made official what just about everyone in the town of 500, north of Kansas City, already knew thanks in part to a Facebook posting by Mark Hill said their son, Cody.

At first, the elder Hill told his son about the winning ticket but instructed him not to share the news with anyone. Cody Hill said he went to work and heard people commenting about how one of the winning tickets came from a local store.

He said nothing. But then a relative told him to look at his dad's Facebook page, where his father had announced the family's good fortune.

Cindy Hill, sounding cautious and a little concerned about the windfall, said they have no immediate plans to move out of their single-story ranch house on a quiet cul-de-sac.

But they will have more free time. 

Mark Hill quit his job as a mechanic Thursday. His wife, who missed a scheduled job interview on the same day, has no plans to keep looking for work. Instead, she plans to focus on their daughter.

"Right now, she's our most important thing," Cindy Hill said. "And we want her to have normal things. It's Christmastime, and we want to be home. ... We want everything normal."

Mark Hill said the adjustment in the family income hadn't quite sunk in yet. He had to buy some small things Thursday when the family was in Jefferson City waiting for the Missouri Lottery to validate their ticket.

"We had to get, like, toothpaste and stuff like that, and I found myself at the store still looking at the price of stuff," he said.

Some of the money will go toward travel, perhaps back to China for another adoption or "wherever the wind takes us," Cindy Hill said. They also will help relatives, including establishing college funds for their grandchildren and nieces and nephews. Mark Hill has his eye on a red Camaro.

"When it's that big of a Powerball, you're going to get people coming out of the woodwork, some of them might not be too sane," Cindy Hill said. "We have to protect our family and grandkids."

She said the family also will be contributing to charities, including a scholarship fund in the local school district in her father-in-law's name. And they hope to continue advocating for adoption, which is "very big with us."

Cindy Hill said whatever is ahead for them, the family plans to use the winnings wisely.

"We want to say too that God blessed us with this. And for some reason, he put it in our hands, I think, to make sure that it goes to the right things," she said. "But we were blessed before we ever won this."

Kevin Bryan, a lifelong Dearborn resident, said the only other local lottery winner he could remember was a farmer who won about $100,000 in scratch-off game years ago "and bought himself a combine."

In a Mega Millions drawing in March, three ticket buyers shared a $656 million jackpot, the largest lottery payout of all time.

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