William "Bud" Post III, 66, whose $16.2 million in lottery winnings brought him debt, despair and heartache, causing the kind of trouble often recounted in country-western songs, died of respiratory failure Jan. 15 at a Pittsburgh area hospital.
"Everybody dreams of winning money, but nobody realizes the nightmares that come out of the woodwork, or the problems," he said in 1993, five years after winning the Pennsylvania lottery.
His problems included a brother who tried to hire a contract murderer to kill him and his sixth wife; a landlady who forced him to give her one-third of the jackpot; and a conviction on an assault charge, after Mr. Post fired a shotgun at a man trying to collect a debt at his deteriorating dream house in northwestern Pennsylvania. He went bankrupt, came out of it with $1 million free and clear and spent most of that windfall, too.
Mr. Post, born in Erie, Pa., had a hard-luck life. His mother died when he was 8 years old, and his father later sent him to an orphanage. Most of his life he was little more than a drifter, working as a spray painter on pipelines and as a laborer, cook and truck driver in circuses and carnivals. He never owned a home or a new car and once served a 28-day jail sentence for passing bad checks.
He told newspaper reporters that on the day he bought his winning lottery ticket in 1988, he was on disability and his bank account totaled $2.46. He pawned a ring for $40 and handed Ann Karpik, his landlady and occasional girlfriend, the cash for 40 tickets in the state lottery. Among the tickets was the winning one.
In the two weeks after Mr. Post collected the first of his 26 annual payments of $497,953.47, he spent more than $300,000. He acquired a liquor license, a lease on a Florida restaurant for his brother and sister, and a used-car lot and its fleet for another brother. He also bought a twin-engine plane, although he did not have a pilot's license. Within three months, he was $500,000 in debt.
A year later, estranged from his siblings, Mr. Post bought a mansion in Oil City, Pa., for $395,000 and set about upgrading it. But all was not well; a county court ordered him to stay away from his sixth wife after he fired a rifle shot into her Pontiac Firebird, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
When his former landlady Karpik sued him for a portion of the lottery winnings, Mr. Post was mortgaged to the hilt. She claimed that they had agreed to split any winnings, which Mr. Post vigorously denied. After three years, a judge ruled that he owed her one-third of all the proceeds, but Mr. Post was unable to pay. When he refused to turn over his 1992 annual payment to satisfy the judgment, the judge ordered all of his lottery payments frozen until the dispute was resolved.
The paper multimillionaire, strapped for cash, sold off most of his acquisitions. Visitors to his crumbling mansion in Oil City noted plywood-covered windows, missing shower stalls, a swimming pool filled with debris, an old car on blocks in the weedy yard and a malfunctioning security system that chirped six times every 60 seconds.
A disheveled Mr. Post ambled around his 16-room home without his false teeth, because he said they made his head hurt.
"I was much happier when I was broke," he moaned.
In 1996, he decided on a final ploy to get out of debt. He sold the mansion for $65,000 and auctioned off the remaining 17 lottery payments he was due, hoping to clear his bills and hold on to a nest egg.
"Once I'm no longer a lottery winner, people will leave me alone. That's all I want. Just peace of mind," he told the Guardian newspaper of London.
Unfortunately, by the next year, he had spent almost all of the remaining $2.65 million on his debts, two homes, another truck, three cars, two Harley-Davidson motorcycles, two 62-inch Sony televisions, a luxury camper, computers and a $260,000 sailboat docked in Biloxi, Miss., with which he planned to start a charter fishing business.
He was arrested on that boat in 1998 after he refused to surrender to serve a 6- to 24-month prison sentence on a six-year-old assault conviction. Mr. Post, found guilty of firing a shotgun at a man who had come to his Oil City mansion to collect a car-repair debt, had appealed the conviction up to the state supreme court to no avail. After he served the sentence, he was reportedly living on a $450-per-month disability check.
Six marriages ended in divorce. He also had a companion with whom he had a child.
Survivors include his seventh wife, Debra S. Wice; and nine children with his second wife.