A bitter fight over a $1.3 million Lotto jackpot was settled here today when a Calvert County Circuit Court judge ruled that the winnings be split in half between a young woman and an older man who once took her into his family.
"I'm tickled sick," Hillery Bowen, 67, said of the ruling by Judge Larry D. Lamson.
"I knew I'd win," he said, smiling broadly and waving to his supporters in the crowded courtroom after the two-hour trial in which he had sought half the jackpot.
Bowen had filed suit in September against 27-year-old Linda Howard and her husband Kenny, 28, claiming that he paid for the winning ticket and that he and Linda Howard had agreed to split any winnings. Maryland officials said it was the first lawsuit in the state over ownership of a lottery ticket.
Judge Lamson said he "had no problem making a decision" ending the controversy, which has become the talk of this rural county of 40,000 people and has attracted media attention from around the state. "It is clear that the version of the facts that actually occurred is Mr. Bowen's," he said.
Kenny Howard, red-faced and clearly angry, called the ruling "unfair" and said he and his wife would probably file an appeal.
Bowen testified today that on Sept. 14, the day of the drawing, he gave Linda Howard $2 to buy two Lotto tickets. He and Linda Howard frequently bought lottery tickets together, Bowen said, always agreeing to split any winnings. Linda Howard lived with Bowen and his family for several years before her marriage, and Bowen moved in with the Howards in February when his wife died, shortly after the Howards were married.
Bowen said that Kenny Howard purchased the tickets and bought two others for himself. When the winning numbers were announced, "Kenny saw his [tickets] didn't win. He raised hell and threw them down."
Bowen said that Linda Howard, meanwhile, looked at the other tickets and said "Pop, we did it," and hugged Bowen in celebration.
The Howards, however, testified that Kenny Howard actually paid for all four tickets, and that there was no agreement between them and Bowen to split any winnings.
"I never bought tickets for Bowen," Kenny Howard said under cross-examination. "I never saw him give Linda $2."
Thomas Starkey, an attorney in private practice here, testified that he met with the Howards Sept. 17, three days after the drawing, and that they asked him if an oral agreement concerning a lottery ticket was enforceable. Starkey said he told them he could not give a general answer to the question and advised them to hire a lawyer.
Later that day, Starkey said, the Howards and Bowen came to his office. "It was obvious they had had heated discussions about the matter," he said. "They were threatening each other, accusing each other of crimes and muttering things under their breath."
At that meeting, Starkey said, Linda Howard acknowledged that she and Bowen had agreed that the tickets were to be shared by the two of them but that Kenny Howard "kept trying to think of reasons why Bowen shouldn't get the money."
Linda Howard later denied saying she and Bowen had agreed to share the winnings. "I never made that statement to Mr. Starkey," she testified.
After the trial, when asked what he planned to do with the money, Bowen said, "I've got 12 kids, what do you think I'm going to do" with it.