David Edwards — jobless, nearing his last unemployment check and needing back surgery without health insurance — said a little prayer and bought a Powerball ticket Saturday night, one hour before the winning numbers were drawn.
On Monday, he was introduced in Louisville, Ky., as one of the four winners of the nearly $300 million Powerball jackpot.
The divorced, 46-year-old ex-convict said his lucky ticket for a piece of the $294.8 million pie was a blessing — especially in light of his current situation.
"It's a poor man's dream," said Edwards, who appeared at a press conference with his fiancee, Shawna Maddux.
"I have a lot on my shoulders. Child support, bills, food, gas, insurance. Things were looking bad."
Now, after claiming his winnings in a lump sum — some $41 million before taxes— rather than a 25-year annuity that would yield $2.9 million per year, Edwards and Maddux are looking for a cream-colored Bentley with tan seats.
"A lot of people work hard and a lot of people are out of work," Edwards said at Kentucky Lottery headquarters. "And you dream you want a better life, and playing this lottery has done that for me."
Kentucky corrections officials said Edwards was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of robbery in 1981. He was paroled and returned to prison several times before completing his sentence in 1997. He also has a conviction for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Asked about his record, Edwards said: "I've made some mistakes in my past ... but now I can do something positive with my future."
Joining Edwards as soon-to-be millionaires was a Maine couple with two cats and a well-used pickup truck, their attorney said Monday.
"Pat and Erwin Wales are truly Maine people. They drive a pickup with 141,000 miles on it. Pat plays bingo 18 cards at a time every time she gets the opportunity," lawyer Terrence Garmey said at a news conference at lottery headquarters.
The couple is from Buxton, Maine. Pat is 60; Erwin is 70, Garmey said. The Waleses also chose the lump-sum option.
"They have two cats, Pumpkin and Squash. One has diabetes, and they love her just the same," Garmey said.
The couple did not attend the news conference.
A medical records clerk from Minnesota won the third leg of the jackpot. Sheryel Hanuman, a married mother of three, beamed as she said she'd given notice and was considering buying a new house.
"I better pinch myself," said Hanuman, who picked her ticket at a Minneapolis grocery.
"It means a little more freedom," she said of the millions about to come her way. "It means I'll be able to help my family in ways I wouldn't even have thought of prior to this."
The fourth winning ticket was sold in Delaware, but its owner hasn't yet come forward to claim the monetary prize.
The jackpot for the game, played in 21 states and the District of Columbia, was the second-highest in Powerball history. A group of factory workers in Ohio split a $295.7 million prize in 1998.