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Mystery surrounds Idaho winner of $190 million

RATHDRUM, Idaho — Holly Lahti burst into the spotlight a week ago in a feel-good story about a single mother who won a $190 million lottery jackpot.

Then came the mug shot: a thin young woman with disheveled brown hair, sporting a black eye and cuts and bruises on her face and neck. It turned out she was separated from a man who court records indicated had abused her, and now has a possible claim to some of the money through a quirk in Idaho law.

Lahti, 29, went underground with her two daughters immediately after learning she had won half of a $380 million jackpot in the Jan. 4 Mega Millions drawing. She opted to collect her jackpot in a lump-sum payment, instead of annual payments over 25 years. She will get $120 million, which will be reduced to $80.6 million by federal and state taxes.

The mug shots were taken after Lahti and her husband, Josh Lahti, both were arrested during a domestic dispute in 2003. Her husband was arrested on the same charge the same day. The charges against both were later dismissed, and the couple have long been separated.

The same year, Josh Lahti was arrested for violating a no-contact order, and that charge was dismissed. He was also charged with second-degree kidnapping, possession of drug paraphernalia, domestic abuse, battery and false imprisonment. All but the kidnapping were dismissed. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail and three years probation.

In 2000, he was charged with domestic violence, but the charge was reduced to disturbing the peace. He was also cited in 2001 for failing to make child support payments.

Contacted by the Associated Press last week, Josh Lahti said he did not know Holly had won the lottery.

"That's awesome! I won't have to pay child support!" he said upon learning his wife was rich.

As it turns out, Josh Lahti could be entitled to a chunk of the winnings because he and Lahti never divorced and were never legally separated, for that matter. Idaho's murky law on the issue requires a divorce filing to grant separation, which is a key factor in splitting up assets between spouses.

Holly Lahti quit her job as a customer service representative for a bank after winning the jackpot, and did not appear at the Jan. 12 news conference in Boise in which her good fortune was revealed. She still lives in the couple's home in Rathdrum, a town in the Idaho Panhandle.

Josh Lahti said the two got married in 2001, and he sees his daughters, age 12 and 10, most days.

Mystery surrounds Idaho winner of $190 million 01/22/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:16pm]
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