Test results from exhumed lottery winner fail to give cops new evidence in poisoning
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org March 1, 2013 11:15AM
Updated: April 3, 2013 6:09AM
Investigators had dug up his brother’s remains to find more clues on how he was murdered — only to come up empty.
But Imtiaz Khan, the brother of poisoned lottery winner Urooj Khan, says he still feels vindicated.
“The bottom line is that he was murdered,” Imtiaz Khan said Friday, after the Cook County medical examiner announced the results of the latest tests.
Urooj Khan had died from cyanide poisoning but new tests revealed no new details.
Imtiaz Khan was the family member who first urged authorities to reinvestigate his brother’s death, after it was originally ruled natural.
“Somebody killed him. Now we have to find out who that somebody is,” he said.
While earlier toxicology tests revealed a lethal dose of cyanide in Urooj Khan’s peripheral blood, the chemical was not detected in his tissues or digestive system, Cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cina told reporters Friday.
All that was found in the decomposed Khan’s stomach was a “non-specific residue,” Cina said, reiterating that the 46-year-old’s death remains classified as a homicide.
“Cyanide has a short half-life and may be lost over the postmortem interval unless tissues are adequately preserved,” Cina said.
“In this case, due to advanced putrefaction of the tissues, no cyanide was detected.”
As in most Muslim burials, Khan wasn’t embalmed, but embalming actually hampers the detection of cyanide, said a forensic pathologist unrelated to the investigation, who asked not to be named. In Khan’s case, bacterial decomposition of his remains most likely played a factor in the disappearance of more possible poison, he said.
Imtiaz Khan said he was a bit frustrated that the painful experience of having his brother’s body exhumed yielded so little but said Chicago Police detectives assured him “it’s a matter of time” before they may have a suspect.
“They [police] said they are progressing but that it’s slow,” Imtiaz Khan said.
Police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said the department is continuing to work “on several aspects of this complex investigation.”
But as far as the medical examiner’s office is concerned, “we don’t really have much more to add,” Cina said Friday.
Khan’s 5-foot-5, 198-pound body was exhumed in January for more testing. The married West Rogers Park man died July 20, less than a month after he won $1 million with an instant lottery ticket. Initial findings determined he had died of natural causes — hardening of the arteries — but Imtiaz Khan pushed the medical examiner’s office to conduct further tests, which showed a lethal level of cyanide in his blood.
When his blood was recently re-analyzed, Urooj Khan tested positive for 7.88 micrograms of cyanide, autopsy results showed.
While Cina on Friday said he couldn’t say how the poison ended up in Khan’s system, he maintained Khan died of “cyanide toxicity.”
Since the post-exhumation autopsy revealed that there was 75 percent blockage in one of Khan’s arteries, coronary artery disease was deemed to contribute to his death, Cina said.
When asked if Khan may have succumbed to a heart attack, Cina said, “As a forensic pathologists, you have to look at the totality of the picture, and I don’t see how we can ignore lethal cyanide levels in the blood.”
Khan’s wife, Shabana Ansari, who said she prepared her husband’s dinner — a curry meatball dish — the evening before he died, couldn’t be reached at the family’s North Side dry cleaners or home on Friday.
Imtiaz Khan said he remains estranged from both Ansari and her father, Fareedun Ansari, who has been adamant he had no hand in Urooj’s Khan’s death.
The two sides are now in the midst of a court fight over Khan’s assets. Khan’s biological daughter from a previous marriage has since moved into her aunt’s home.
“All I want is justice for my brother,” Imtiaz Khan told the Sun-Times.
“I want the person who did this to be caught and punished.”
Contributing:Tina Sfondeles andStefano Esposito