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Judge approves exhumation of Chicago lottery winner's body in mysterious cyanide death probe

  • ExhumedLotteryWinner.jpg

    FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Illinois Lottery shows Urooj Khan, 46, of Chicago's West Rogers Park neighborhood, posing with a winning instant lottery ticket.AP

  • ee7ea6c657875001260f6a706700fdf8.jpg

    This June 2012 photo provided by WMAQ-TV in Chicago shows Urooj Khan, center, holding a ceremonial check in Chicago for $1 million as winner of an Illinois instant lottery game. At left, is Khan's wife, Shabana Ansari. Khan, 46, who owned several dry cleaning operations and some real estate, died suddenly on July 20, 2012, just days before he was to collect his winnings. Khan's death has been ruled a homicide. Court records show that Ansari has battled with his siblings over control of his estate, including his $425,000 prize money. A Cook County judge on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, approved the exhumation of Khan's body. (AP Photo/Courtesy of WMAQ-TV in Chicago)The Associated Press

  • 4b8c9a8057885001260f6a7067002ab3.jpg

    In this Thursday, Jan. 10. 2013 photo, Shabana Ansari, the wife of Urooj Khan, exits a dry cleaners in Chicago, Ill. Khan, 46, who owned several dry cleaning operations and some real estate, died suddenly on July 20, 2012, just days before he was to collect his winnings. Khan's death has been ruled a homicide. Court records show that Ansari has battled with his siblings over control of his estate, including his $425,000 prize money. A Cook County judge on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, approved the exhumation of Khan's body. (AP Photo/Chicago Sun-Times, Andrew A. Nelles) CHICAGO LOCALS OUT, MAGS OUTThe Associated Press

A judge Friday granted prosecutors permission to exhume the body of a Chicago lottery winner who was fatally poisoned with cyanide just as he was about to collect his $425,000 payout.

Authorities want to do a fuller autopsy on Urooj Khan to confirm earlier but less thorough toxicology tests, as well as to rule out that natural causes contributed to the 46-year-old's sudden death, according to documents filed with the motion for an exhumation.

Facing dozens of reporters crowded around her outside court after a judge signed off on the request, Khan's sister said the thought of her brother's body being unearthed and reexamined was disturbing — but essential.

"It's very hard," a tearful Marez Khan said. "I wanted my brother to rest in peace, but we have to have justice served." She added about the exhumation, "It has to be done."

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

Cook County's Medical Examiner's Office didn't initially perform a comprehensive autopsy because there were no outward signs of physical trauma and it was thought he died of cardiac arrests, the state's attorney's motion said.

It wasn't immediately clear when the exhumation will happen. The motion said the body wasn't embalmed, which would preserve the body longer, and so the exhumation needed to happen soon before further decomposition.

Police have released few details about the investigation; they have not announced any suspects or a possible motive or said which relative asked for the more thorough inquiry.

The man's wife, Shabana Ansari, has said she can't believe her husband had any enemies and that she was not involved in his death.

One of Ansari's lawyers said before Friday's hearing that she doesn't oppose the exhumation. But Al-Haroon Husain said Ansari wants to ensure Islamic religious practices are adhered to, though he didn't elaborate.

Al-Haroon Husain said he would also ask authorities to carefully document the exhumation and autopsy, including by taking photographs, to ensure the procedures are carried out properly.

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Follow Michael Tarm at www.twitter.com/mtarm

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