Murder, gambling and suicide – curse of the lottery-winning millionaires

The history of lottery wins is filled with tales of people who had their lives ruined by good fortune.

Londoner Mark Gardiner won £11m in 1995 but went on to lose touch with many of his closest friends and family even the ones he treated to new £100,000 homes – and lost touch with his family.

He later said : “Whatever your problems, money magnifies them.”

And in America – where the shops, cars and even burgers are all built on a bigger scale – lottery winners’ woes can be magnified.

This can lead to tales of tragedy, from gambling, suicide and even murder…

Thomas Strong

Thomas Strong seemed to be a particularly level-headed sort of lottery millionaire, who vowed to keep his job after scooping a $3.6million Texas lottery jackpot in 1993.

But a creeping paranoia began to affect his thinking. First he accused his wife of trying to poison him, then he came to believe that the FBI had implanted a listening device in his brain.

In fact, according to Texas Ranger Sgt. Frank Malinak, Strong was ”was under the influence of amphetamines”.

Sheriff's investigator Peter Glidewell later told a court that Strong was known to use crack cocaine and methamphetamines.

After a terrified neighbour called police to say that Strong was marching up and down their street with a gun in the early hours of June 28, 2006, Burleson County Sheriff Dale Stroud arrived on the scene.

After a short car chase, a shootout began between Strong and a group of police deputies. Strong was cut down by gunfire as he left his truck. Police say they had no idea why String had started shooting at them.

"He was calm, cool, collected. Good natured. Fun to be around.," said Strong’s childhood friend Calvin Strickland. “I just don't know how you make sense out of it."


Evelyn Adams

Evelyn Adams was a two-time jackpot winner – winning $3.9million on the New Jersey lottery in October 1985 and then $1.4 million four months later.

After her second win she said "I'm going to quit playing”, saying that she felt she couldn’t go anywhere without being recognised.

Friends, and acquaintances petered her for loans, and many of them made no effort to pay her back.

"Everybody wanted my money,” she said. “Everybody had their hand out. I never learned one simple word in the English language — 'No.'

“I wish I had the chance to do it all over again,” she added. “I'd be much smarter about it now,"

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And while Evelyn said she’d given up playing the lottery she still couldn’t resist a flutter, and gambled away a fortune in casinos at Atlantic City.

By 2012 she was tracked down by Forbes magazine penniless and living in a trailer.

Jeffrey Dampier

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Security guard Jeffrey Dampier won an Illinois Lottery jackpot worth US $20million in 1996. Soon after that he and his wife divorced and split the winnings. Jackson moved to Florida with his new wife, Crystal Jackson Dampier.

Dampier was generous to his new wife’s family, moving her two sisters, Victoria and Terri Jackson, to Florida and financially supporting them.

Dampier also embarked on an affair with Victoria. But she wanted more than the occasional handout and with her other boyfriend, Nathaniel Jackson (no relation), kidnapped him.

The couple repeatedly beat Dampier, demanding money, but when he refused to co-operate Victoria blasted him in the head at close range with a shotgun.

According to Victoria’s sister, Tiffany, Dampier began his relationship with her when she was underage. “They knew she was just 15 when he started messing with her,” she said. “Where’s the justice for her?”

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Billie Bob Harrell

Perhaps the saddest of all lottery winners’ stories is that of Billie Bob Harrell Jr.

A deeply religious man from Texas who scraped a living stocking shelves at a local DIY superstore, Harrell thought it was a godsend when a lucky dip ticket for the Texas lottery landed him a $31million jackpot in June 1997.

"I wasn't going to give up," he said at the time. "Everyone kept telling me it would get better. I didn't realise it would get this much better.”

As well as buying a few luxuries for himself and his family, Harrell also donated a considerable chunk of his fortune to the Calvary Tabernacle Pentecostal church, which he attended every Sunday.

But his generosity didn’t stop there. He also became known as an easy touch for anyone who needed a handout and gave away tens of thousands of dollars to friends, fellow-parishioners and even complete strangers.

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"I think a lot of people just came to expect him to do that," his son Ben said. "People would make a fuss over him, and he really enjoyed that a lot. He enjoyed the attention. He'd rather have that attention more than buying himself something."

But Harrell’s wife Barbara Jean didn’t agree with her husband’s wild spending – especially as she suspected one of the people Harrell was giving money to was in fact his secret girlfriend.

The couple decided to divorce, and the pressure of his marital woes, added to the constant demands for money from friends and hangers-on proved too much for him.

In May 1999, he went into his bathroom, took off his clothes, and pressed the barrel of a Winchester model 37 shotgun against his chest before pulling the trigger.

He was found by his one of his sons the following morning.

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