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Downstate Couple Comes Forward As Mega Millions Winners

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Lottery Winners

Patricia and Merle Butler won a third of the $656 million jackpot in the Mega Millions drawing last month. (Credit; CBS)

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Updated 04/18/12 – 3:50 p.m.

RED BUD, Ill. (CBS) — She giggled for four hours. That’s what an Illinois woman did, after her husband told her they won a share of the record $656 million Mega Millions jackpot.

Merle and Patricia Butler, a retired couple from the small downstate town of Red Bud, stepped forward Wednesday to show off their winning ticket, and claim their share of the jackpot.

As CBS 2’s Kris Gutierrez reports, it all started with a simple $3 quick pick purchase at a MotoMart convenience store in Red Bud for the March 30 drawing.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger Reports

“The first thing I spotted was I had the Mega Millions ball number. I said, ‘Good, well, I’m going to win something, you know,’ and I started on the other numbers, 2, 4, and the further I went, the more they matched,” said Merle Butler. “And so, after I looked at it for a couple minutes, I turned to my wife, who was right there with me, and I said, ‘We won.’ And she kind of looked at me funny, and I said, ‘No, we won.’ And then she started giggling, and she giggled for about four hours, I think.”

After checking and re-checking the numbers all night, they knew it was true. They held a ticket matching all six numbers in the record-breaking Mega Millions jackpot.

The jackpot had grown to $656 million after 18 previous Mega Millions drawings went by without a winner and their jackpots continued to roll over.

“We were sitting watching the 10 o’clock news, and they gave the numbers, and I grabbed a piece of paper out of my nightstand, and a pencil, and wrote the numbers down real quick,” Merle said. “And proceeded to go to my billfold to get my lottery ticket out to check it.”

Merle said he and his wife did not sleep too well the night they learned they won. Still, bright and early the next day, they went to the bank to put their winning ticket in a lock box.

“There was only, like, three or four people in there at the time. It was early in the morning, first thing. And one of the people I know in the bank, as I was walking in the door to put this in the lock box, says, ‘Oh, I guess you’ve come over to put your ticket away,’” he said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I won this thing and I’ve got to get this thing put away’ – just laughed it off. And she doesn’t know right now that I really had that ticket in there.”

CBS 2’s Pamela Jones reports retirement is looking pretty good for the Butlers.

Wednesday morning, they claimed a big check worth $218,666,667 – their share of the record jackpot after it was split three ways. In addition to the Butler’s winning ticket, winners were also sold in Maryland and Kansas, although those winners are anonymous.

As for the Butlers, they said they know everybody in their hometown – and they don’t plan on changing too much.

“There could possibly be a vacation,” Merle said. “But we don’t know when, yet. Because, like I say, this is a full-time job, it looks like. You’d be surprised at what all it involves.”

The Butlers have been meeting with legal and financial experts. They kept their secret close to the vest – fewer than five people knew they were the big winners before Wednesday.

Both Merle and Patricia Butler are retired computer analysts. As far as what they want to buy first, Merle kept mum, only saying he is going to invest his new fortune.

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