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Couple claims half of $390 million lottery

A New Jersey couple claimed half the record $390 million Mega Millions jackpot on Monday and said they are now retired — effective immediately.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A New Jersey couple claimed half of the record $390 million Mega Millions jackpot Monday and said they are retired — effective immediately.

Elaine and Harold Messner chose the cash option for the prize from the March 6 drawing in the multistate game. They will receive $116,557,083 before the 25 percent federal withholding tax.

“We feel very fortunate and blessed,” Harold Messner, 57, a general contractor who bought the winning ticket. “This is that early retirement we’ve always dreamed of. Now we can do all those things we said we would do once we retired.”

A truck driver in Georgia had the other winning ticket and claimed it within hours of the drawing.

Messner and his wife, who is 56, live in Cape May County, at the state’s southern tip, not far from the liquor store where they purchased the winning ticket. They let a state lottery machine randomly select numbers for them.

Messner said he and his wife didn’t sleep for the rest of the night after they realized the ticket he had purchased at a liquor store in Woodbine had all the winning numbers.

“I checked the last number twice, called for my wife and told her we won,” he said in a statement through their lawyer, Richard King. “She had a very hard time believing it.”

King said the couple would not speak with reporters or hold a news conference to discuss their prize.

Talk of the town
Neighbors said they suspected something was amiss when they saw the Messners erect “No Trespassing” and “Beware of the Dog” signs outside their home over the weekend.

“They don’t own a dog,” neighbor Rosemary Trout said.

“In a lot of ways, we’re still recovering from the shock of winning all this money,” Messner said in the statement. “I know this means we’re officially a retired couple, but past that, Elaine and I are still sorting all of this out. We have some ideas about what we want to do with this big win, but haven’t made any big decisions yet.”

The previous largest U.S. lottery jackpot was $365 million in 2006, when eight workers at a Nebraska meatpacking plant won the Powerball drawing. The Big Game, the forerunner of Mega Millions, paid out a $363 million jackpot in 2000.

Mega Millions tickets are sold in California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington state.