One moment, 20-year-old Craigory Burch Jr. was a small-town forklift operator who had hit it big — winning a $400,000 lottery jackpot and posing with an oversize check.
The next, he was standing face to face with his killers.
In January, his girlfriend said, masked men shot through the door to Burch’s home in Fitzgerald, in southern Georgia, and demanded money — aiming at Burch, who was holding his 2-year-old child.
“When they came in, he said: ‘Don’t do it, bro. Don’t do it in front of my kids. Please don’t do it in front of my kids and old lady,’ ” his girlfriend, Jasmine Hendricks, told WALB-TV at the time. “He said, ‘I’ll give you my bank card.’ ”
She said the men then shot and killed him.
Authorities in Georgia said Burch was a “pre-selected target” and, this week, announced that seven people were arrested and charged in his death.
The Ben Hill County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that after a months-long investigation, authorities arrested Keyana Dyous, 24; Earnest Holcomb, 27; Anjavell Johnson, 21; Dabrentise Overstreet, 19; Rosalyn Swain, 22; and a 17-year-old who was not publicly identified. Police said a seventh suspect, 28-year-old Nathaniel Baker, was already being held in another jail.
All seven have been charged with malice murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery, home invasion and possession of a firearm during commission of a crime.
“We will work around the clock, and we will put as many officers [on the case] as necessary, as we did in the beginning,” Ben Hill Sheriff Bobby McLemore told WFXL-TV. “And we kept these officers on this case around the clock seven days a week till we got it solved.
“The people of Fitzgerald can rest assured, when we have a crime, we devote whatever time it takes to get the job done.”
Burch matched all five numbers in the Fantasy 5 drawing in November and won a $434,272 jackpot, according to the Georgia Lottery.
“My right eye and hand had jumped for the past two weeks,” Burch had said, according to the state lottery. “I knew that I would come into money.”
After he won, he told organizers that he “couldn’t believe it.”
“I was stunned,” he told them. “I’m still overwhelmed.”
Two months later, police said, he was shot and killed.
Authorities have not said whether the incident was directly related to Burch’s recent winnings, but his friends and family members say it made him a mark.
In some states, winners can choose to remain anonymous — perhaps because they don’t want publicity or because they don’t want the security risk.
The Baltimore Sun reported earlier this year that Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina allow winners to claim their prizes anonymously.
The purpose is “to provide a shield for winners to avoid being approached by people looking to exploit their good fortune,” Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency Director Gordon Medenica told the Sun in January. “It’s essentially a consumer protection argument.”
Late on Jan. 21, police said, three men invaded Burch’s home.
Hendricks, Burch’s girlfriend, told WALB that Burch tossed his pants to the men but that they could not find his wallet.
Authorities said the men shot him in both legs and then left — then returned and shot him again, according to WFXL.
A neighbor, who did not want to be identified, told WFXL at the time that she was getting home from work when Hendricks knocked on her car window.
“She was like, ‘Please, please let me in your car.’ So I let her in the car. I said, ‘What’s going on?’ ” the neighbor told the news station. “She’s like, ‘They just busted in my house and they shot my boyfriend.’ ”
The neighbor told WFXL that she drove them down the road and dialed 911.
“She was talking about: ‘My baby, my baby. My other baby was in the house,’ ” the neighbor said, adding that she took Hendricks and two children to a nearby store.
Authorities in Ben Hill County said they cannot comment further on the case, because the investigation is ongoing.
Burch’s mother, Leslie Collins, said in January that she wanted justice.
“I want them to know what they took from me,” she told WALB. “They took a part of my life away from me, my child that I carried and raised for 20 years.”