The death of a Chicago area man shortly after he won the lottery has been ruled a homicide after medical examiners discovered traces of cyanide during an examination.
Urooj Khan, 46, died on July 20, the day after the lottery check worth $425,000 was issued, but with no signs of trauma and no other circumstances to raise suspicions. Officials ruled that foul play was not involved.
However, the man's relatives felt something was not right and after almost six months, they managed to convince medical examiners to conduct another autopsy. The examination concluded that he had died as the result of ingesting cyanide, which can be lethal in the right doses.
With the new findings, the Chicago Police Department opened a homicide investigation to determine who killed Khan.
"It's pretty unusual," Stephen Cina, Cook County Medical Examiner, told NBC News. "I've had one, maybe two cases out of 4,500 autopsies I've done."
Local reports indicate that Khan, who owned several dry cleaning businesses, bought the winning scratch-off ticket at a 7-eleven convenience store in Chicago's North Side.
"Winning the lottery means everything to me," Khan told reporters during the Illinois Lottery ceremony on June 26, adding that he had planned on donating some of the winnings to charity.
The check was issued from the state Comptroller's Office on July 19, but was not cashed until Aug. 15; several weeks after Khan had tragically died.
There were no visible signs of trauma on Khan's body during the first exam. There was no post-mortem exam because the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office does not generally conduct them on people over the age of 45 unless the death was suspicious, Cina explained in a statement.
There are various ways that cyanide can enter the body either by being inhaled, swallowed or injected, according to Deborah Blum, a poison expert.
"It has a really strong, bitter taste, so you would know you had swallowed something bad if you had swallowed cyanide. But if you had a high enough dose it wouldn't matter, because ... a good lethal dose will take you out in less than five minutes," Blum told NBC News.