Judge approves exhumation of lottery winner's body - FOX 35 News Orlando

Judge approves exhumation of lottery winner's body, family wants the truth

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Authorities just received permission to exhume the body of the lottery winner who died of cyanide poisoning shortly after collecting his winnings.

Although this case sounds more and more like made-for-TV movie, this is real life, and authorities are one step closer getting answers. The critical ruling came down at the Daley Center Friday morning.

The hearing lasted only about a minute, as the State's Attorney's Office asked a Cook County judge to grant a request to exhume the body of Urooj Khan, 46.

Circuit Court Associate Judge Susan Coleman she approved the requests, calling it "reasonable and sufficient." There were no objections from lawyers for various family members and the estate.

Coleman recommended performing the exhumation as soon as possible, since Khan's body was not embalmed before burial. Khan's body is buried in Rosehill Cemetary on the North Side.

For the family, the granting the exhumation was a very important ruling. They want investigators to get to the bottom of this, to the truth.

"We're glad and finally we'll know what happened," Khan's brother-in-law Mohammed Zaman said.

Family members left court Friday after the hearing, feeling relieved. Zaman wouldn't speculate as to whether anyone intentionally poisoned Khan.

"We have no clue. We're not pointing fingers," he said.

He died in his home from cyanide poisoning July 20th, the day after being awarded a $425,000 check from a winning lottery ticket.

Family members said Khan worked late at his dry cleaning businesses that night and then came home, eating a traditional Indian meal with meat which his wife, Shabbana Ansari prepared for him.

Family members said Ansari is a vegetarian and did not eat the food - neither did Khan's daughter or his father-in-law who were home at the time.

EXCLUSIVE: Source says lottery winner`s wife didn`t share last meal

Urooj Khan's July 20 death was initially ruled a result of natural causes – hardening of the arteries. But a concerned relative asked authorities to look deeper, triggering further toxicology exams that led to the conclusion in November that the businessman was intentionally poisoned.

Khan's sister got a frantic call for help in the middle of the night, the night her brother died. She would prefer his body not have to be exhumed, but agrees it has to be done.

"We wanted to have justice served, so if that what it takes to bring justice for him and bring peace, then that's what needs to be done," Meraj Khan said.

She hopes investigators will find the truth. Police have yet to announce any suspects.

Medical Examiner Stephen Cina says he hopes to gather additional evidence through more tests on the body that could be presented in court.

Zaman did, however, make a point to say that there were only four people in the house the night Khan died: Khan, his wife, daughter and father-in-law.

On Thursday, Khan's future father-in-law talked about when Khan was a boy in his native India.

"I raised him up from the age of 12 years," Fareedun Ansari, 71, said Thursday.

Zaman told the Sun-Times the relationship between Khan and Ansari had soured recently.

"He was complaining about his father-in-law," Zaman said. "He was not too comfortable about him."

Zaman wouldn't go into specifics, citing the ongoing criminal investigation into Khan's death. Fareedun Ansari's name surfaced this week after documents showed he was in financial trouble in 2011, owing $124,000 in back federal taxes.

Ansari, who lived under Urooj Khan's West Rogers Park roof and was at home the night investigators say Khan died, was adamant that he had nothing to do with the lottery winner's death.

"Nothing. Nothing," Ansari said, fighting a sore throat.

Federal tax liens filed against Ansari in February and March of 2011 show Ansari owed a combined $124,000 in back taxes from 2010, according to Cook County Recorder of Deeds office records.

James Pittacora, Ansari's attorney, said Thursday he thinks Fareedun Ansari and Khan were close.

"From what I understand, they had a great relationship … no hostilities," Pittacora said.

Pittacora said that his client has not been interviewed by detectives investigating the death of the 46-year-old Khan.

Asked if there are any plans to do so, Pittacora said, "I don't know."

Khan's widow, a weary-looking Shabana Ansari, told an international group of reporters Thursday that she's cooperating with investigators, and she questioned a probate case that claims she might cut out Khan's daughter from a previous marriage from any assets.

"I was taking care of her all these years," Shabana Ansari said. "How could I do an injustice to her?"

The probate case, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, involves one of Khan's brothers, ImTiaz Khan, who wants a judge to force Citibank to release his brother's "account information and assets," according to court filings.

ImTiaz Khan, through his attorney, claims Urooj Khan's daughter from a previous marriage, Jasmeen, Shabana Ansari's stepdaughter, might not receive "her proper share" of the estate because "Ms. Ansari may be attempting to control [her husband's] accounts," according to court documents.

"As administrator of the estate, ImTiaz Khan respectfully requests that he be allowed to collect the lottery check payable to Urooj Khan, unfreeze the check, and deposit the funds into an estate account in order to preserve the asset for the decedent's daughter," according to court documents.

Zaman, 46, who is married to Urooj Khan's sister Meraj Khan, stood on the front steps of the family's bungalow on busy West Howard on Thursday and said his family is "devastated" by his death and is eager for answers.

"Everybody has to die, but not that way," Zaman said. "We didn't expect our brother to be the victim of a homicide."

Zaman insists he doesn't know which relative tipped off investigators that Urooj Khan's death might not be natural, as the medical examiner's office originally classified it.

"It's unusual — people don't collapse and die overnight," Zaman said.

The Sun-Times Media Wire and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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