Mega Millions $1.5 billion jackpot still remains unclaimed

SIMPSONVILLE, South Carolina -- Nearly everyone in this town has a theory for the city's billion-dollar mystery: Who won the $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot announced last October?

Maybe the winner was so overwhelmed upon seeing the winning numbers that she or he died on the spot? Maybe the winner is on the run from police and fears a background check? Maybe that winning ticket fell from a car visor, ended up in a trash can and is forever buried at the landfill. Or maybe, the winner is still going on with life as usual, before quietly taking the $878 million lump sum.

With less than two months to go, the clock is ticking. Whoever won the second largest lottery in U.S. history has until 5 p.m. on April 19 to walk into the South Carolina Lottery office in Columbia with the signed ticket and claim the jackpot.

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The winning ticket was sold sometime between Oct. 20 and the drawing at 11 p.m. on Oct. 23. An employee at the store where the ticket was sold said State Law Enforcement Division agents were waiting in the parking lot when workers came to open at 6 a.m. the next day.

"We didn't even know we sold the winner yet," Jee Patel said, adding agents immediately took the surveillance tapes away. "We haven't seen them. I don't know when we sold it or who we sold it to."

Simpsonville is a rapidly growing suburb of about 22,000 people south of Greenville. The store is away from the suburban core on a two-lane road past the four-way stop and several recently constructed subdivisions. Everyone entering the store on a recent cold winter day figured the winning ticket was sold to someone living or working nearby.

RELATED: South Carolina lottery winners can stay anonymous

As with all great mysteries, there are some far out conspiracy theories. Chris Watson prepares hot dogs and hamburgers at the store's grill. He wonders if Mega Millions ever planned to award the jackpot at all, instead using it as an excuse to sell more tickets.

"What I don't understand is why does the money have to go back? Why can't they just use it for another jackpot?" Watson said.

If the ticket goes unclaimed, the $1.5 billion prize will be redistributed to the 44 states along with the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.
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