Missouri Powerball winner verified; Arizona's a mystery

FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. - Sometimes it's better to dream, particularly when reality means you're not an instant multimillionaire.

Bob Kangas realized Wednesday night that one of two winning Powerball jackpot tickets -- a record $587.5 million -- had been bought in Arizona, but he didn't check his numbers.

"I didn't want to look because I just wanted to dream about being rich," Kangas said Thursday while checking his tickets at a 4 Sons Food Store in Fountain Hills, the suburban Phoenix shop where he bought his tickets -- and where the winning ticket was sold.

While lottery officials in Missouri verified its state's ticket after it was presented to them late Thursday, the Arizona winner had yet to come forward. They have 180 days to do so.

A news conference was planned for Friday morning in Missouri. Officials declined to provide details of the winner in advance, not even whether the ticket sold at a Trex Mart gas station in Dearborn was purchased by someone from that state.

Kangas just wanted one night to believe he could soon have more money than he'd know what to do with.

"I just wanted to dream all night," he said, breathing a heavy sigh as he realized his tickets were not winners. "I'll try again."

In Missouri, speculation had many of Dearborn's 500 residents buzzing about who had won.

Cashiers Kristi Williams and Kelly Blount greeted customers with big smiles and questions about whether they had bought the winning ticket.

"It's just awesome," Williams said. "It's so exciting. We can't even work."

Karen Meyers, a server at the Cook's Corner Cafe, said she didn't believe it at first when she heard the winning ticket had been sold nearby.

"I think it's wonderful! I hope someone local won it, not someone just passing through," she said. "It's a small town where everyone is really nice."

Kevin Bryan bought his ticket at the Trex Mart and made an extra trip to his mother's home in Dearborn to verify that the ticket he left on her counter wasn't, in fact, the winner.

"When I heard it was sold here in Dearborn I about fell over," Bryan said, as he hung Christmas lights outside his mother's home.

He said the only other local lottery win he could remember was when an area farmer won about $100,000 in scratch-off game years ago "and bought himself a combine."

Baron Hartell, son of the owner of the Missouri store, said if the winner isn't a local resident it might have been a truck driver. Interstate 29 is a busy thoroughfare connecting Kansas City to the Canadian border.

"Even the truck drivers who come around, we see them every day, so they all feel like all locals to us," he said.

Store manager Chris Naurez said business had been "crazy" for Powerball tickets lately and that the store had sold about $27,000 worth of tickets in the last few days.

"This really puts Dearborn on the map," he said.

Trex Mart General Manager Kenny Gilbert suggested his staff would be sharing in the $50,000 bounty that the store will be awarded for selling one of the winning tickets.

"The response from the owner was, `I guess we'll be able to give out Christmas bonuses,"' Gilbert said. "That's nice, especially at this time of year."

The Phoenix shop will receive a $25,000 bonus but store owner Eric Seitz said it hadn't yet been decided what to do with the money.

Customers poured in to check their tickets and share in the big moment as media swarmed the small gas station.

"I think it's crazy, and I also think it's great," said store manager Bob Chebat. "I'm glad that all that work yesterday wasn't for nothing."

The store was swept up in a nationwide ticket-buying spree preceding Wednesday's drawing, with the big money enticing many people who rarely, if ever, play the lottery to buy a shot at the payout.

"There was a lot of traffic. We did a little over $8,000 worth of Powerball tickets just yesterday alone," said 4 Sons District Manager Harvey Frausto.

The numbers drawn Wednesday night were 5, 16, 22, 23, 29. The Powerball was 6. The huge payout represents the second-largest jackpot in U.S. history, and the largest for Powerball.

Tickets sold at a rate of 130,000 a minute nationwide -- about six times the volume from a week ago. That pushed the jackpot even higher, said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association. It rolled over 16 consecutive times without a winner.

The lucky ticket-holders could split a cash payout of $384.7 million before taxes, or about $192 million each.

In a Mega Millions drawing in March, three ticket buyers shared a $656 million jackpot, the largest lottery payout of all time.

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