Using flashlights and braving the winter cold, several people scoured a suburban Cleveland convenience store parking lot Monday night in hopes of pouncing on a $162 million Mega Millions lottery ticket a woman claims she lost there.
The story had fortune seekers sifting through snow, darkness and cold, even doing a little dumpster diving, reports Lynna Lai of CBS affiliate WOIO.
The free-for-all was sparked when Elecia Battle, of Cleveland, filed a police report saying she dropped her purse as she left the Quick Shop Food Mart last week after buying the ticket. She said she realized after the drawing Dec. 30 that the ticket was missing.
After news of Elecia Battle's police report spread Monday night, people walked through snow and frigid temperatures to try to find the ticket in the store parking lot.
"I decided to come back to see if I could find the winning ticket," said LaVerne Coleman, 57, who says she would keep the winnings if she found the ticket.
Battle, 40, would not talk about the specifics of when she bought the ticket, how she lost it or even if she was a regular lottery player. She planned a news conference Tuesday to announce a reward.
"I'm praying that someone finds the ticket, brings it forward and gets rewarded and from there we all live happily ever after," said Battle, who cried as she talked to The Associated Press at her home Monday night.
Fat chance. Lottery officials say whoever has the ticket gets the prize.
"Maybe today might be my lucky day," said one searcher.
"If she dropped her purse over there like they say it's got to be in this vicinity somewhere," said another.
"I'm looking in the trash can for the ticket," said a young girl.
Police say Battle was in tears when she came to the station Friday to file the report and did not hesitate when asked to write down the winning numbers.
"We don't believe that she's fabricating it, but there's no real way of knowing other than going on her word," Lt. Kevin Nieter said.
Nieter said information Battle knew about when the ticket was bought and how the numbers were picked make her story credible. She told police that the numbers — 12, 18, 21, 32 and 46 and Mega Ball 49 — represented family birthdays and ages.
The Ohio Lottery said the winning ticket was sold at the store in suburban South Euclid, about 15 miles east of Cleveland. The winning ticket was sold to someone who chose the numbers, not someone who let the machine pick.
"To have something in your hand and have it slip out is a tough thing to swallow," said Elecia's husband, Jimmy Battle, who has two jobs. The couple have seven children, some from previous marriages.
Nieter said the Battle family may be out of luck if someone else picked up the lone winning ticket for what was the largest lottery jackpot in state history.
"Whoever has the ticket has the right to stake the claim to the winning jackpot. You can file all the police reports you want, but it's not going to help," he said.
According to the police report, officers tried to see if Battle showed up on the store's surveillance cameras but the store owner said the cameras were broken.
Ohio Lottery spokeswoman Mardele Cohen said that if someone else came in with the ticket, Battle could try to get a temporary restraining order in court to block the winnings from being paid.
If the jackpot isn't claimed by June 27, the money goes to Ohio and 10 other states that participate in the game.