Shabana Ansari says she hopes the truth will come out in a homicide investigation into the death of her husband, Urooj Khan. An initial exam said he died of natural causes, but a later toxicology test found that he had ingested cyanide.
CHICAGO — Documents show the widow a Chicago lottery winner poisoned with cyanide has battled in court with several of his siblings over control of his estate, including his lottery winnings.
Urooj Khan died suddenly in July just as the 46-year-old businessman was about to collect $425,000 in prize money.
The court documents shed no light on the circumstances of Khan's death, but add a layer of drama to the story.
Khan's brother Imtiaz and sister Meraj Khan won an order from a probate judge in September to freeze the lottery check, asserting his widow tried to cash it. They expressed concern in court filings that Khan's daughter from a previous marriage might not get her share.
The widow, Shabana Ansari, denies removing assets from the estate.
Ansari's attorney, Steven Kozicki, says Ansari was subjected to a long session of questioning at a police station in November and that detectives searched the home.
Police have not said if Ansari is considered a suspect. Kozicki says she vehemently maintains she had nothing to do with the July death of her husband. Police have not spoken publicly of any suspects.
Khan died just days before he was to collect $425,000 in lottery winnings.
Authorities initially ruled the death a result of natural causes, but further tests showed he was poisoned and his death was reclassified as a homicide.
Ansari spoke to The Associated Press a day after news emerged that Khan died from cyanide poisoning in July. Prosecutors, Chicago police and the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office are investigating Khan's death as a homicide, but they have not given any details or announced any suspects.
Ansari would not talk about the circumstances of her husband's death, saying it was too painful to recall. She described Khan as a hard-working and generous man who would send money to orphanages in their native India.
"I was shattered. I can't believe he's no longer with me," said the short, soft-spoken Ansari, standing in one of three dry-cleaning businesses her husband started after immigrating to the U.S. from India in 1989.
Khan's death on July 20 was initially ruled a result of natural causes. But a relative's request for a deeper look resulted in the startling conclusion months later that Kahn was killed with the poison as he was about to collect $425,000 in winnings.
"I don't think anyone would have a bad eye for him or that he had any enemy," said Ansari, adding that she continues to work at the dry cleaner out of a desire to honor her husband and the businesses he built.
Ansari, 32, moved to the U.S. from India after marrying Khan 12 years ago. She said she hopes the truth will come out and that she has spoken with police detectives about the case.
Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy told reporters Tuesday that he had never seen anything like Khan's case in his 32 years of policing in New York, New Jersey and now Chicago.
"So, I'm not going to say that I've seen everything," McCarthy said.
Authorities plan to exhume Khan's body in the next few weeks in hopes they might be able to test additional tissue samples and bolster evidence if the case goes to trial.
"It's always good if and when the case goes to trial to have as much data as possible," said Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina. He added that he did not believe additional testing would change the conclusion that Khan was a homicide victim, saying those comprehensive toxicology results were validated in the lab.
"Based on the investigative information we have now and the (toxicology results), we're comfortable where we are right now," he said.
Khan and his wife were born in Hyderabad, India, and their story is a typical immigrant's tale of settling in a new land with big dreams and starting a business. Their 17-year-old daughter, Jasmeen, is a student here.
"Work was his passion," Ansari said, adding that she plans to stay in the U.S. and keep his businesses running.
"I'm just taking care of his hard work," she said.