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Officials begin digging up body of poisoned lottery winner

Officials in Chicago exhumed the body of a lottery winner who died shortly before he was able to collect his winnings. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

Authorities in Chicago began exhuming the remains of poisoned lottery winner Urooj Khan early Friday in hopes of determining exactly how he was killed.

Officials at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said they collected samples from major organs, hair and fingernails Friday from Khan, who died shortly before he was to collect his winnings, later in the day. No initial autopsy took place, NBCChicago.com reported.

One thing they want to find out is how cyanide entered his system, and authorities say Khan's body showed no signs of trauma. The results of Friday's testing should be known in two to three weeks, according to NBC Chicago.

Khan, 46, died July 20, one day after the state issued a $425,000 lump sum payout check for his $1 million winning lottery ticket. The check wasn’t cashed until Aug. 15, possibly by a member of his estate.

An autopsy had not been performed last summer because medical examiners believed Khan died from natural causes, but at the urging of a family member, they took another look and discovered he had been poisoned.

His death was reclassified as a homicide. 

Handout / Reuters

Urooj Khan of Chicago is pictured holding his winning $1 million lottery ticket in this undated handout photo from the Illinois Lottery. Khan died of cyanide poisoning on July 20, 2012, and his death is now a homicide investigation.

“We are confident he was a healthy person and cannot die like that,” Khan’s brother, ImTiaz Khan, told NBCChicago.com Thursday. “We are just praying to God that justice will be served, and whoever did this will be punished.”

In an affidavit, Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said it was necessary to do a full autopsy to “further confirm the results of the blood analysis as well as to rule out any other natural causes that might have contributed to or caused Mr. Khan’s death.”

Khan’s widow and father-in-law have denied any involvement with the death. A lawyer described them as devastated. Khan’s estate with his dry cleaning business and his lotto winnings is said to be worth about $2 million. 

Police have not announced any suspects in their investigation.

NBC Chicago’s Charlie Wojciechowski contributed to this story.

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