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Merle and Pat Butler, Illinois couple in their 60s, claim share of $656 million Mega Millions prize

Merle and Patricia Butler, a retired couple from Red Bud, Ill., bought just one $3 quick pick. NBC's Janet Shamlian reports.

After two-and-a-half weeks of mystery, America finally got to put a face to one of the three winners of the record $656 million Mega Millions jackpot.

Merle and Patricia Butler a retired married couple from the small Illinois town of Red Bud, stepped forward Wednesday to claim the third and final share of the largest lottery prize in history.

"We are just everyday people who have worked hard all our life, who love our family and our city, pay our taxes and try and keep up with all the work that's involved in owning and maintaining a house," Merle Butler said in a statement issued by the Illinois Lottery. "We just happened to hit it big in the lottery."


The share of the prize the couple will claim is worth roughly $158 million in a lump sum before taxes.

Merle Butler, 65, retired about eight years ago from his job as a computer analyst for a life insurance company. Pat Butler, 62, worked for several companies during her professional career, retiring from the Edward Jones IT department nearly five years ago.

The ticket was bought at a Moto Mart convenience store in town.

NBC News

The winning ticket

Merle Butler told reporters at a press conference Wednesday at the Red Bud Village Hall that he started checking the winning numbers against his ticket on the night of the March 30 drawing.

"The first thing I spotted was I had the Mega Ball number. I said, 'Well, good, I'm going to win something.' And then I started on the other numbers. The further I went the more they matched," Merle Butler said.

"After I looked at it for a couple of minutes, I turned to my wife who was right there with me and I says, 'We won.' She kind of looked at me funny and I says, 'No, we won.' And then she started giggling. She giggled for about four hours, I think."

"It was just very exciting," Pat Butler said of the experience.

The couple said they don’t have any immediate plans on how to spend the windfall.

Merle Butler said he and his wife have met with financial advisers and are examining ways to invest the money "instead of trying to think of things we could spend it on."

Red Bud Mayor Tim Lowry said national buzz over the identity of the Mega Millions winners ever since the March 30 drawing put his town on the map. The Moto Mart store manager, Denise Metzger, has been interviewed by news media from as far away London and Japan.

"We were just this little corner of the world but now the world knows who we are," he said.

The other two winning tickets for the record jackpot – believed to be the largest lottery prize ever -- were sold in Kansas and Maryland. Those ticket-holders have chosen to remain anonymous, though the Maryland winners have been identified by the Maryland Lottery as three public school employees.

Unlike the other two states, Illinois requires the winner's identity to be revealed.

The winning numbers for the drawing were: 2-4-23-38-46 and the Mega Ball 23.

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