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Body of man poisoned after winning lottery will be exhumed

Urooj Khan is pictured holding his winning lottery ticket in this undated handout photo from the Illinois Lottery. Khan died of cyanide pois
Urooj Khan is pictured holding his winning lottery ticket in this undated handout photo from the Illinois Lottery. Khan died of cyanide pois

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The body of a Chicago man who died of cyanide poisoning less than two months after winning $1 million in the Illinois Lottery will be exhumed for further examination in two to four weeks, according to the Cook County medical examiner.

An affidavit to exhume the body of Urooj Khan, 46, will be filed Friday with the Cook County Circuit Court, Mary Paleologos, a spokeswoman for the county, said on Wednesday. Once a judge approves the request, which should take one to two weeks, it will probably take another one to two weeks to arrange the exhumation with the cemetery, Paleologos said.

Khan's death on July 20 was at first determined to be caused by heart disease. No autopsy was performed, since there was no trauma present and the death appeared natural. Toxicology results indicated no drugs or carbon monoxide present.

But several days after the body was released for burial, an unidentified family member contacted the doctor in the case and asked that the medical examiner revisit it.

The medical examiner's office ordered comprehensive toxicological testing. On November 23, final test results confirmed a lethal level of cyanide in the blood, according to the medical examiner, and the death was ruled a homicide.

The medical examiner's office said exhumation of the body "is necessary to complete an investigation" into Khan's death.

Chicago Police would say only that they are investigating the case as a murder and are working closely with the medical examiner's office.

Khan had presented the ticket claiming his winnings to Illinois Lottery offices on May 31, according to Lottery spokesman Mike Lang. Khan had decided to take the lump-sum payment, which amounted to about $424,500 after taxes. A check was sent from Springfield, Illinois to Khan July 19 or July 20 -- so it is unlikely Khan ever saw it, Lang said.

The check was paid August 15, Lang said. He said it is common that when winners die before receiving their winnings, the money is paid to the estate.

Khan's estate is in Cook County probate court. The next status date in the case is January 24.

Steven Kozicki, an attorney for Khan's wife Shabana Ansari, was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. Kozicki told the Chicago Tribune that Ansari had been interviewed by Chicago police detectives and had nothing to hide.

(Reporting By Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune and Nick Zieminski)

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