Sneed exclusive: Questions raised about lottery winner’s last meal
By MICHAEL SNEED firstname.lastname@example.org January 9, 2013 9:00PM
This undated photo provided by the Illinois Lottery shows Urooj Khan, 46, of Chicago's West Rogers Park neighborhood, posing with a winning lottery ticket. The Cook County medical examiner said Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, that Khan was fatally poisoned with cyanide July 20, 2012, a day after he collected nearly $425,000 in lottery winnings. (AP Photo/Illinois Lottery)
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:40AM
Sneed exclusive . . .
Death by lottery?
It reads like an Agatha Christie whodunnit — but Colonel Mustard is not the suspect.
Sneed is told the mysterious death of poisoned $1 million lottery winner Urooj Khan, 46, whose body is being targeted for exhumation, just got murkier.
Even top cop Garry McCarthy claims he has never seen a case like this in 32 years in law enforcement.
“So I’ll never say that I’ve seen everything,” he told reporters.
Sneed has learned that the body of Khan, who was a devout Muslim, was not embalmed before he was buried — enabling the possibility of rapid deterioration, which could mess up any conclusive evidence that the West Rogers Park resident and dry-cleaning business owner died of a lethal dose of cyanide.
◆ The big question: When was the cyanide administered?
◆ His wife, Shabana Ansari, 32, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday that she had prepared the family dinner — which turned out to be her husband’s last meal — a traditional Indian Kofta curry. Translation: beef meatballs.
◆ However, a police source tells Sneed that Ansari, who underwent a four-hour police interview last month, did not eat the meal. The source also tells Sneed that Khan’s daughter told police she did not eat the meal.
◆ The flipside: Ansari told the Sun-Times that she, her father and stepdaughter ate the meal with Khan.
◆ Backshot: Khan’s death was first classified as due to natural causes after a preliminary external autopsy. “He was over 45 years old, there was no evidence of foul play and we certainly weren’t informed he had been a lottery winner,” said Dr. Stephen Cina, the Cook County medical examiner. “But we did take blood and tissue samples.”
◆ Buckshot: A later tip caused the medical examiner’s office to recheck the blood samples — and voila — cyanide was found.
◆ Slapshot: In a separate media report, Ansari denies she fed her husband the curry that night.
◆ Heartshot: When asked if she had anything to do with her husband’s death, Ansari told the Sun-Times: “No, I loved him to death.” She also said she was eager for investigators to exhume his body to learn “the truth.”
◆ Bankshot: Khan’s lottery winnings, a lump sum payout of about $425,000, are tied up in probate because a family dispute.
◆ “She [Ansari] is a sensitive, naive woman who dearly loved her husband and had nothing to do with her husband’s death — except experience devastation compounded by the media onslaught,” said Steven Kozicki, her attorney.
“I don’t want what happened to Drew Peterson to happen to her,” he told Sneed. “Her husband was the greatest asset in their dry-cleaning business — and now she has to deal with the stress of running the business in addition to the loss of her husband.
“I do not know anything about her police interview, and even though I would have discouraged her from talking to the press, I do think this is an indication she is innocent and wanted to set the record straight. She is a faith-filled woman and a strong woman,” Kozicki added. “We also do not have an objection to the exhumation of her husband’s body.”
Cina, who is not privy to the preliminary police questioning involving Khan’s death, agrees it is an unusual case.
◆ Final shot: Then he added as an aside: “But I wouldn’t think Colonel Mustard did it. I’d go with Professor Plum.” (He is referring, of course, to the popular old board game “Clue.”
Sneedlings . . .
Condolences to the family of Judge Albert Green, who died on Tuesday . . . Thursday’s birthdays: Rod Stewart, 68; Pat Benatar, 60, and George Foreman, 64.