US: Indian-origin lottery winner death still unclear
Posted on: 12:52 PM IST Mar 02, 2013
Chicago: Autopsy of Indian-origin businessman Urooj Khan, who died in 2012 after winning a $1 million jackpot, found no trace of cyanide in his body apparently because it dissolves quickly, a medical examiner has said. "The route of administration of cyanide cannot be confirmed in the autopsy," Dr Stephen Cina, the Cook County Medical examiner, told reporters at a news conference in Chicago on Friday.
Cina said the autopsy revealed nothing new to help Chicago police in the investigation of the million-dollar lottery winner's cyanide poisoning death in July 2012. He said the body was badly decomposed and the autopsy could not confirm how the cyanide entered his body.
The autopsy did reveal 75 per cent blockage in one of 46-year-old Khan's coronary arteries, but the medical examiner still ruled that Khan died of cyanide toxicity - with heart disease as a "contributing factor." "Once again, the manner of death is cyanide toxicity. Coronary artery disease is deemed a contributory condition, and the manner of death is homicide," Cina said.
"Cyanide has a short half-life and may be lost over the postmortem period unless tissues are adequately preserved," he said. "In this case, due to advance putrefaction of the tissues, no cyanide was detectable in the tissues or small amounts of gastric content recovered following exhumation of the body."
When asked if Khan could have died of a heart attack, Cina said, "As a pathologist you have to look at the totality of the evidence. And I don't see how I can ignore a lethal level of cyanide in the blood."
The autopsy of Khan's body was conducted after his body was exhumed in January from the Rose Hill Cemetery in Chicago. Khan had come to the US from his home in Hyderabad in 1989 and set up several dry-cleaning businesses in Chicago.
Khan's death was originally attributed to natural causes. A relative later requested the Cook County Medical Examiner take another look. After examining fluid samples, a lethal level of cyanide was found and Khan's death was declared a homicide.