When a young Calvert County truck driver and his wife won $1.3 million in the Maryland Lotto last month, "it was the biggest thing to hit this county in years," said a resident here. "People were real excited."
But since 28-year-old Kenny Howard and his wife Linda, who is 27, hit the jackpot Sept. 14, the story has lost much of its charm.
Five days later, as the Howards drove to Baltimore to collect their winnings, a man who lived with them for 18 months and who said he paid for the winning ticket filed civil suit seeking to prevent them from collecting the funds.
Hillery Bowen, 67, claimed in the suit that the Howards had agreed to split any winnings with him.
He is seeking half of the winnings, which are to be paid in annual stipends of about $65,000.
Calvert County Circuit Court Judge Larry D. Lamson granted the injunction that day, and the money was put on hold by the Maryland lottery board. Friday, Lamson ruled that 25 percent of the winnings be awarded to Linda Howard and that the other 75 percent be placed in an escrow account until final disposition of the case Nov. 13.
Maryland lottery officials said this is the first dispute over ownership of a winning ticket to go to court.
Some of Bowen's relatives said relations between them and Linda Howard had already been strained, but the lottery dispute has worsened the situation. Linda Howard lived with Bowen and his family for a number of years before her marriage, and Bowen moved in with the Howards when his wife died, shortly after the Howards were married.
Bowen, who is no longer living with the Howards, said after the hearing, "I took care of that girl, and since they got married, I took care of them. I paid the rent, the utilities, and this is the thanks I get."
Linda Howard, for her part, was quoted in a local paper as saying, "I grew up with his kids. I went to school with his kids. He didn't have to be sneaky." When asked about the case after Friday's hearing, Kenny and Linda Howard said in a brief interview that they believed that Bowen should have told them about his plans before he filed the suit. But they declined to comment further on the case.
The lawsuit is the talk of this rural county of 40,000 people. "Everywhere you go, people are talking about it," said Norma Elliott, an employe at the Ken-Mar liquor store in Prince Frederick, where the winning ticket was purchased. "People come in here every day to ask about it. They all want to know, 'Did you hear anything?' "
One customer, who did not want to give her name, said she had been "waiting all day" to hear about it. She said she thinks Bowen should be given half the money. "He paid for it," she said.
Elliott disagreed. "I'm for the young couple," she said as she waited on a steady stream of customers buying lottery tickets.
Said coworker Elisabeth Wilder, "I think they should split it 50-50. I don't know why they want to spend all that money on the lawyers."
Even Judge Lamson said he was surprised that the case was not settled out of court. "This is a good indication of what can happen when a lot of money is involved -- people act irrationally," he said.
At Ken-Mar Liquors, where a large sign outside said "$1.2 Million Lottery Ticket Sold Here 9-14-85," Elliott rang up another sale and said, "You know, the young people were so enthused when they won that lottery. And we were happy about it, too. It's a shame this had to happen."