CHICAGO — A retired couple from the small Illinois farming town of Red Bud stepped forward Wednesday to claim their $218-million cut of the record $656-million Mega Millions jackpot won nearly three weeks ago.
Merle Butler, 65, said he and his wife, Patricia, 62, looked at each other and giggled after he calmly told her that a quick-pick ticket he had bought held the winning numbers. After taxes, the couple will get a lump-sum payment of $110,517,449, probably the largest payment ever made to an individual by the Illinois state lottery.
Butler, a retired computer analyst, said he has no plans to leave the small town near St. Louis. "It's a really nice place to live. I know pretty much everybody here."
Butler said he buys lottery tickets only when the jackpots grow to more than $100 million. That's what he did last month as the Mega Millions prize ballooned, spending $3 on quick-pick tickets.
Butler said he wrote down the winning numbers when they were broadcast March 30, then checked the numbers on his tickets. He checked again and again before calmly and quietly telling his wife, "We won."
"Are you sure?" Patricia responded.
"Yes, I think so," he said.
They both broke out giggling.
The next morning the Butlers put the ticket in a lock box at their bank. They spent the next few weeks working with a lawyer and a financial planner to figure out how to best manage the money.
The couple, who have been married 41 years and have grandchildren, have no immediate plans for their winnings but may look into how to treat themselves in a few months or a year.
"There could possibly be a vacation in there," Merle Butler quipped.
The other winning tickets were claimed anonymously in Kansas and Maryland.