NEW: Test results will take a few weeks, the medical examiner says
Cyanide is among the most potent and deadly poisons
Medical examiners don't typically look for cyanide, because it is rare
The body of an Illinois lottery winner was exhumed Friday by the Cook County medical examiner’s office after toxicology results showed he died of cyanide poisoning.
An autopsy was performed on Urooj Khan’s body, Dr. Stephen Cina, county medical examiner, told reporters.
It will take a few weeks for testing results and he could not predict the results, he said. Cyanide can evaporate after death, and it’s possible it may not be present, he said.
Murder by cyanide poisoning is extremely rare, experts say.
Khan died in July, the day after the lottery issued him a check for about $425,000 after taxes. He won the money playing a scratch-off game a month earlier.
“We are investigating it as a murder, and we’re working closely with the medical examiner’s office,” Chicago police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said last week.
Cina said Friday, “We’ve already determined it was a homicide, and nothing we’ve seen today would change that.”
On the day he died, Khan’s wife said she made dinner at home and then he went to bed. A little less than an hour later, his screams of agony woke her up. His family rushed him to a hospital, but it was too late.
Initially, doctors ruled the 46-year-old died of natural causes. But later that week, an unnamed relative called the medical examiner’s office.
“This person must have made a compelling case,” Cina told CNN’s Martin Savidge this month. “This was serious enough to order a full battery of toxicology, including unusual agents such as cyanide and strychnine.”
The lab technician retested Khan’s blood, and results came back in November. “It was definitely in the lethal range for cyanide in the blood,” Cina said.
Cook County policy is not to perform autopsies on anyone under 50 unless the death is suspicious or an autopsy is requested.
Cyanide is among the most potent and deadly poisons, but it is not easy to get. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission prohibits the retail sale of products with cyanide salts. It is, however, available from industrial sources. It cleans metal and is used in research labs and mining.