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Man who lost homes in Katrina claims $97M Powerball prize

Saturday, May 10, 2008

BATON ROUGE, La. -- A construction company owner who lost two homes in Hurricane Katrina claimed a $97 million Powerball prize, a jackpot won off a ticket he bought at a convenience store where he stopped to buy his wife a gallon of milk.

When he turned in the winning ticket, Carl Hunter became the largest Powerball winner in Louisiana's history. He won the jackpot in January, but the 73-year-old small-businessman waited nearly four months to claim the prize.

An avid lottery player, Hunter said he already had bought a Powerball ticket Jan. 16 at the gas station less than two blocks from his home in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie. But he stopped at the station again that day to buy milk -- at the request of his wife, Dianne -- and got a second "quick pick" ticket.

"I had some change, and one dollar was used to buy this ticket," Hunter said Thursday at the Louisiana Lottery Corp. headquarters in Baton Rouge, where he claimed his prize.

"It's all about milk," his wife said, smiling.

The couple, surrounded by cameras, was decidedly low-key about the multimillion-dollar win, saying they didn't have specific plans for the money -- besides retirement and the rebuilding of a camp lost to Katrina.

"I'm retiring, you know, naturally," Carl Hunter said.

Hunter took a lump-sum payment that will give him $33.9 million after taxes, according to lottery officials. Asked why he waited so long to turn in the winning ticket, Hunter said he wanted to wrap up some of his construction work and finish his outstanding contracts. In fact, Hunter's wife Dianne said he was still at work this week.

"I don't think about buying elaborate cars or homes," Carl Hunter said.

Hunter said he owned two homes that were destroyed in 2005 by Katrina, and he and his wife moved into a Metairie home she owned after the storm. The house was near the gas station where he bought his winning ticket.

The multimillion-dollar win wasn't Hunter's first winning lottery ticket. He said he won $5,000 off a ticket a few years ago.

West Metairie Shell, the gas station where Hunter bought his ticket, will get $25,000 for selling the winning ticket. The station, tucked among brick ranch homes and raised wooden houses in a middle-class neighborhood, lost its roof during Katrina, and the store was looted.


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