RICHMOND -- Retired truck driver J. R. Triplett is on Easy Street: He stepped forward yesterday to claim a $239 million lottery prize, the second-biggest undivided jackpot in US history.
Twirling a toothpick in his mouth and holding his wife's hand, Triplett said the prize was "no big thing to me" and gave assurances that he would spend it wisely. His wife, Peggy, vowed to "shop till I drop."
Triplett, a regular lottery player, said the ticket was one of five he bought at a convenience store not far from his Winchester home. He saw the winning numbers on television the morning after the Feb. 20 drawing in the multistate Mega Millions lottery. He told his wife: "Sweetheart, I've got those numbers."
"Then she got down on her knees and thanked the Lord," he said in a statement.
Triplett said he waited more than a month before claiming his winnings so he could talk to a lawyer and "get everything straight."
The Tripletts, who declined to give their ages, have two children and two grandchildren.
At a news conference with his wife, Triplett said that he had no big plans for the jackpot but that he wants to put his money in real estate, "because they don't make no more dirt, you know."
Triplett said he has already bought a headstone for a friend's grave and plans to donate to two churches. But he and his wife of 35 years plan to have some fun with the money, too.
"Sweetheart and I might get lost for a couple of days," he said.
The odds of winning were 1 in more than 135 million.
The Tripletts took their winnings in a pretax lump sum of $141.5 million, instead of $239 million in 26 annual installments.
The biggest single-ticket jackpot in US history is $314.9 million, won by Jack Whittaker of Scott Depot, W. Va., in a Powerball drawing on Christmas 2002. Three winners shared a $331 million jackpot in 2000.
In the case of the Mega Millions jackpot, the nearly six-week delay in claiming the prize led to speculation that the ticket had been lost or discarded.