The 17-year-old granddaughter of the nation’s largest lottery winner was found dead near her boyfriend’s home, her body wrapped in a sheet and plastic tarp.
“All I know is she OD’d and Brandon freaked out,” Steve Crosier, the father of Brandi Bragg’s boyfriend, Brandon, told reporters in a brief conversation outside the house.
Bragg, who lived in the nearby town of Hurricane, was last seen alive Dec. 4. She was reported missing five days later by Jack Whittaker, who won a $314.9 million jackpot on Christmas Day 2002 but has battled legal and other problems since then.
The cause of death was under investigation. Authorities said there were no obvious signs of violence, and they would not comment on whether drugs were involved. An autopsy was planned for Tuesday.
Body behind junked van
Bragg’s body was found Monday behind a junked van several hundred feet from the home of Steve Crosier, said Trooper S.E. Wolfe.
A preliminary investigation indicated that Bragg may have died in the Crosiers’ house and her body was later moved, he said.
Wolfe said Monday’s discovery was based on interviews with Brandon Crosier and others. “We are focused on him but I wouldn’t call him a suspect yet,” he said.
After his conversation with reporters outside his home, Steve Crosier told the Associated Press he did not know any details of Bragg’s death or when her body was placed outside on his property. Crosier said he had been busy tending to his daughter, Jennifer, who died of cancer Dec. 13.
Bragg’s body was identified by tattoos on her neck, said State Police Sgt. Jay Powers. “The troopers had talked to her in the past and knew her,” Powers said.
Whittaker and other family members did not return messages. There was no listing for Bragg’s mother, Ginger McMahon of Beckley, who is Whittaker’s daughter.
Whittaker's plans for windfall
Shortly after he won the lottery, the biggest undivided lottery jackpot in U.S. history, Whittaker said he had few plans for himself but wanted to lavish his winnings on his daughter and Brandi, then 15.
But Whittaker — already a wealthy contractor before his lottery win — has had several brushes with the law since he won the prize. Earlier this month, a magistrate ordered him to go into alcohol rehabilitation and surrender his driver’s license after his second drunken driving arrest this year. He must report to rehab by Jan. 2.
He has also been accused in two lawsuits of assaulting female employees of a racetrack. And his vehicle, business and home have been broken into.
In September, an 18-year-old friend of his granddaughter was found dead at Whittaker’s home. That death remains under investigation. Whittaker was out of town at the time.