Florida city wonders who won the lottery jackpot - WFLA News Channel 8

ADVERTISEMENT
Bookmark and Share

Florida city wonders who won the lottery jackpot

Posted: Updated:
ZEPHYRHILLS, FL (WFLA) -

It's been over two weeks since the small city of Zephyrhills learned that a $590 million Powerball ticket was sold at a supermarket here.         

No one expected the winner to come forward in the first days after the announcement. After all, curious residents reasoned, the person might need a few days to absorb the shock, or to consult with financial advisers.   

But then a week passed, and more, and now folks are so anxious to know the winner's identity they could jump out of their skin.       

"Being in a small town, everybody knows everybody and in some cases, everybody's business," said Dave Walters, a longtime reporter at the Zephyrhills News community newspaper. "It's hard to keep a secret in this town, but this is one of the biggest mysteries we've had in a long, long time."     

Zephyrhills, population 13,337, is about 30 miles northeast of downtown Tampa. Like many Florida communities, it features a small, old-timey downtown strip where restaurants, gift shops and clothing stores sit under a canopy of oak trees. Around the city's perimeter, there's the suburban sprawl of big box stores. It was in that sprawl, at a Publix supermarket, where the winning ticket was sold.           

Rumors were swirling about who the winner could be: Publix deli employees, single moms working at Wal-Mart - even the cousin of a friend of a guy who lived clear in another county.     

"Anybody who did not show up for work on that Monday was considered to be the lottery winner," Walters said. "If you had the flu and didn't show up for work, everyone thought you were the lottery winner. If you took a personal day or a sick day, they thought you had won the lottery."        

The city is known around the Tampa Bay area for a few things: as the source for bottled spring water, as an area where people like to skydive and as the home to several mobile home parks that cater to the elderly.   

Joe Abed, who owns Manolo's Italian restaurant in the historic downtown, thinks the ticket was sold to a senior citizen.   

"It's a conspiracy theory," he said, using his hands to make quote marks. "I believe it's a senior citizen that purchased the ticket and they just have no idea that they won the ticket." 

Marsha Decena, a Zephyrhills clothing store owner, said she's anxious to find out who won.         

"I've heard so many different rumors through town, from it being a 23- or 26-year-old woman to somebody might have washed it in their pocket, the ticket is just lost and they don't know that they won," she said. "It's crazy."         

The winner has 60 days from the date of the May 18 drawing to claim a lump-sum payment, and until mid-November to claim annual cash payments.  

Zephyrhills resident Don Lawrence thinks the winner is just lining up legal and accounting staff.   

"Lost the ticket or something like that? No, I don't think so," he said. "I think somebody's taking their time, doing it the right way."

Newly elected Mayor Danny Burgess - who turned 27 on Saturday - said he hopes it's a resident.    

"Just because one person won the lottery, we all feel like we won, that's the kind of community this is," Burgess said. "I absolutely hope for the lottery winner that this is a positive, life-changing event. Only in America can you go to bed with a lottery ticket and wake up a mega-millionaire. I hope that they understand, appreciate and recognize the significance of this."

Abed wonders if the ticket eventually is "just going to go back into the system" so the country can have "another huge lottery."    

But that's wishful thinking. According to the Florida Lottery website, if a Powerball jackpot isn't claimed within 180 days from the draw date, "the funds to pay the unclaimed jackpot will be returned to the lottery members in their proportion of sales for the jackpot rollover series."  

In other words, state coffers will claim the jackpot, and the people of Zephyrhills will be left to wonder.

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • Community reaches out to Spring Hill family after theft of lawn equipment

    Community reaches out to Spring Hill family after theft of lawn equipment

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:41 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:41:35 GMT
    Michael Depace wants to say "thank you" and give a huge hug to everyone that reached out after a thief stole $3,500 worth of lawn equipment from him.
    Michael Depace wants to say "thank you" and give a huge hug to everyone that reached out after a thief stole $3,500 worth of lawn equipment from him.
  • FL vehicle registration renewal fees drop

    FL vehicle registration renewal fees drop

    Monday, September 1 2014 11:48 AM EDT2014-09-01 15:48:49 GMT
    That little gift you get from the state on your birthday every year, to renew your car tag, is going to be cheaper starting Monday.  The cut will save drivers about $13 to $25 depending on the size of their vehicle.
    That little gift you get from the state on your birthday every year, to renew your car tag, is going to be cheaper starting Monday.  The cut will save drivers about $13 to $25 depending on the size of their vehicle.
  • Mold takes over St. Pete condo, creeps into neighbors' homes

    Mold takes over St. Pete condo, creeps into neighbors' homes

    Friday, August 29 2014 5:48 PM EDT2014-08-29 21:48:06 GMT
    Josephine Ramos is literally sick about the toxic black mold growing in the St. Petersburg condominium beside hers. She's been feeling ill for months with headaches and breathing problems. Recently, she had peak inside the condo next doors and couldn't believe her eyes.
    Josephine Ramos is literally sick about the toxic black mold growing in the St. Petersburg condominium beside hers. She's been feeling ill for months with headaches and breathing problems. Recently, she had peak inside the condo next doors and couldn't believe her eyes.
  • NewsMore>>

  • Pasco County couple survive a week adrift at sea

    Pasco County couple survive a week adrift at sea

    Tuesday, September 2 2014 12:17 AM EDT2014-09-02 04:17:17 GMT
    A Pasco county couple is recovering after spending a week adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. They were trapped 80 miles off shore without any food and very little water for seven days.
    A Pasco county couple is recovering after spending a week adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. They were trapped 80 miles off shore without any food and very little water for seven days.
  • Palm Harbor strip club hit & run victim makes plea

    Palm Harbor strip club hit & run victim makes plea

    Monday, September 1 2014 9:33 PM EDT2014-09-02 01:33:46 GMT
    New video shows the violent incident early Friday morning, outside "Silks" strip club on US 19 in Palm Harbor. Bouncer Doug Berube and the club DJ. wanted to talk to a guy in a car about an earlier incident. The driver shoved it in reverse, hit the gas, and backed over Berube. He has a plea for the driver....
    New video shows the violent incident early Friday morning, outside "Silks" strip club on US 19 in Palm Harbor. Bouncer Doug Berube and the club DJ. wanted to talk to a guy in a car about an earlier incident. The driver shoved it in reverse, hit the gas, and backed over Berube. He has a plea for the driver....
  • Land O' Lakes man: troopers saved my life

    Land O' Lakes man: troopers saved my life

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:41 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:41:51 GMT
    A Pasco County man credits two Florida Highway Patrol troopers with saving his life. A Pasco County man credits two Florida Highway Patrol troopers with saving his life.
    Chris Henry calls two Florida Highway Patrol Troopers heroes. He believes they saved his life.
    Chris Henry calls two Florida Highway Patrol Troopers heroes. He believes they saved his life.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Restaurant Ratings Most Violations: August 18 - 23

    Restaurant Ratings Most Violations: August 18 - 23

    Friday, August 29 2014 5:58 PM EDT2014-08-29 21:58:28 GMT
    Ever wonder what goes on in the kitchen of your favorite restaurants?
    Ever wonder what goes on in the kitchen of your favorite restaurants?
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium plans to drop animal shows

    Clearwater Marine Aquarium plans to drop animal shows

    Monday, September 1 2014 11:09 AM EDT2014-09-01 15:09:15 GMT
    Aug. 3, 2011 file photo, Clearwater Marine Aquarium senior marine mammal trainer Abby Stone works with Winter the dolphin in Clearwater, Image APAug. 3, 2011 file photo, Clearwater Marine Aquarium senior marine mammal trainer Abby Stone works with Winter the dolphin in Clearwater, Image AP
    No animal performances will be held at a redesigned aquatic center planned by the Florida aquarium featured in the "Dolphin Tale" movies.
    No animal performances will be held at a redesigned aquatic center planned by the Florida aquarium featured in the "Dolphin Tale" movies.
  • Bubba 'The Love Sponge' to announce new Tampa gig

    Bubba 'The Love Sponge' to announce new Tampa gig

    Monday, September 1 2014 3:09 PM EDT2014-09-01 19:09:07 GMT
    File photo of Bubba the Love Sponge ClemFile photo of Bubba the Love Sponge Clem
    Bubba "The Love Sponge" announced on his Twitter page Monday that he will soon have a new Tampa home.
    Bubba "The Love Sponge" announced on his Twitter page Monday that he will soon have a new Tampa home.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.