It has been two weeks since a resident of Zephyrhills, Fla., purchased a $590 million jackpot ticket from a local supermarket, and the game’s officials have still yet to verify that person’s identity. While local residents assumed that the lucky winner would need a few days to get his or her affairs in order, none of them expected to wait this long to find out who took home the prize.
"Being in a small town, everybody knows everybody and, in some cases, everybody's business," Dave Walters, a reporter at the Zephyrhills News community newspaper, told the Associated Press. "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."
A small town of 13,337 residents, Zephyrhills is located about 30 miles northeast of Tampa, Fla. While officials have identified a Publix supermarket as the source of the ticket, rumors continue to swirl about the identity of the Powerball winner.
"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."
Another resident had a more cynical perspective on the ongoing Powerball mystery. "It's a conspiracy theory," Joe Abed, a local restaurant owner, told AP. "I believe it's a senior citizen that purchased the ticket and they just have no idea that they won the ticket."
The reclusive jackpot winner better come forward soon. According to the Florida Lottery website, a Powerball jackpot winner has 180 days from the draw date to claim winnings or "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, the state of Florida would claim the person’s $590 million jackpot.
While the mystery in Zephyrhills abounds, drawings for the new Powerball jackpot continue. The latest drawing, held on Saturday, produced the following winning numbers: 22, 28, 33, 53, 59, with a Powerball of 14. However, the drawing failed to yield a winner. The current jackpot is estimated to be $50 million, with a $30.6 million cash value.