The mystery about who won the third and final share of the record $656-million Mega Millions jackpot nearly three weeks ago ended Wednesday in southern Illinois.
Merle Butler, a retired computer analyst, came forward with his wife Patricia as the winner of the March 30 drawing during a news conference Wednesday at the village hall in tiny Red Bud.
The ticket was bought for $3 at a MotoMart convenience store in the 3,700-resident farming community. They won $218.6 million.
"People kept asking if I won it and most of the time I would laugh it off," Butler told reporters. "I talked to several people around town and answered most of the time truthfully, "yes I did," but they didn't catch it."
He told fewer than five people before Wednesday's reveal. Not even the local banker knew.
"One of the people I know in the bank as I was walking in the door to put [the ticket] in a lock box says, 'Oh I guess you've come over to put your ticket away.' I said, 'Yeah, I won this thing and I gotta get this thing put away,'" Butler said. "I just laughed it off."
"I figured the quieter I keep it, the better we are."
The other two winning tickets already have been anonymously claimed in Maryland and Kansas, with each stake worth $218.6 million.
Red Bud is about 40 miles southeast of St. Louis. Butler said the couple will remain in Red Bud, where he was raised.
What will the couple spend it on? "Possibly a vacation."