Man who won $31m lottery killed himself two years later after admitting it ruined his life
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A Texas man whose whole world changed when he won $31 million tragically ended up taking his own life just two years later.
Millions of people dream of winning the lottery, but only a handful ever get to see that dream become a reality.
Billie Bob Harrell Jr., who worked at Home Depot in Harris County, became one of those few in June 1997, when he looked at the numbers on his Quick Pick ticket and realized he held the only winning ticket to a Lotto Texas jackpot of $31 million.
Harrell's son, Billy III, later told the Dallas Observer: "He said, 'Bill, come over here and take a look at this and make sure I'm reading this right'. So I walked over there, and I was looking, and I was like, 'Uh, they match'."
Harrell had previously been laid off from a few different jobs, and was having a hard time providing for his wife, Barbara Jean, and three children.
He was hopeful the lottery would change his life, and the change he'd been waiting for began when he arrived in Austin to collect the first of 25 annual checks for $1.24 million.
Speaking at the official ceremony for his win, Harrell said: "I wasn't going to give up. Everyone kept telling me it would get better. I didn't realize it would get this much better."
Following his win, Harrell purchased a ranch and treated other family members to new homes.
He bought new cars and made large contributions to his church, but as family, friends, fellow worshippers and even strangers began to ask him for more and more cash, Harrell's spending went out of control.
"I think a lot of people just came to expect him to do that," Harrell's oldest son, Ben, said of his father's lending habits.
"People would make a fuss over him, and he really enjoyed that a lot. He enjoyed the attention. He'd rather have that attention more than buying himself something."
Tension around the money led to issues in his marriage, and Harrell and Barbara Jean eventually split up.
Harrell later confided to a financial advisor that winning the lottery was the 'worst thing that ever happened' to him.
Just under two years after he first held his winning ticket, Harrell sadly took his own life in his home.
Three notes were found in the bedroom where Harrell's body was discovered, one of which was addressed to his ex-wife.
It read: "I didn't want this. I just wanted you."
If you or someone you know is struggling or in mental health crisis, help is available through Mental Health America. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. You can also reach Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741741.
You can also call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 at the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline.