CNHI News Service
David Lee Edwards, an out-of-work ex-con who won millions in a Powerball lottery 13 years ago, died penniless Saturday in a hospice care center here, a victim of hard and fast living that resulted from his sudden riches.
Edwards, 58, was one of four winners of a $280 million Powerball prize in August of 2001, electing to receive a one-time cash payment amounting to $27 million after taxes.
Documents show he burned through his lottery windfall in six years, wasting millions on bad investments and drugs. Suffering from major health issues, he returned broke and in need of medical care to his hometown of Ashland in 2007.
Down on his luck on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2001, Edwards borrowed money from a friend to get his water turned back on and buy $7 in Powerball tickets at Clark’s Pump-N-Shop. He had drinks at the Ashland Plaza Hotel with his 27-year-old girlfriend, Shawna Maddux, later that night when he learned he’d hit the jackpot.
At a check-passing ceremony two days later, Edwards admitted he’d led a troubled personal (prison term for robbing a gas station) and financial life, and he didn’t want to “accept this money by saying I’m going to get mansions and I’m going to get cars, I’m going to do this and that. I would like to accept it with humility. I want this money to last, for me, for my future wife, for my daughter and future generations.”
Then, he added, he had his eye on a Bentley. And Shawna, who soon became his second wife, wanted a Ferrari.
After six days in Las Vegas celebrating, Edwards wasted little time in buying those luxury cars plus several others, including a Lamborghini Diablo, mansions in Palm Beach, Fla., and Palm Springs, Calif., a $1.7 million Leer jet, race horses, a $178,000 diamond ring, a $78,000 watch and much more.
Susan Bradley, an expert in sudden wealth, told the Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach New Times magazine: “If you look at the things he was buying, they were pretty random. He was a sitting duck for all sorts of ‛deals.’ If you watch him for 10 seconds and you’re a predator type, you’ve got his number.”
Edwards later acknowledged he spent $12 million of his $27 million winnings in the first year, eschewing the advice of a financial adviser to spend cautiously and invest in blue chip stocks and bonds.
But Edwards rags-to-riches to rags story is also one of drug addiction. Palm Beach police responded at one point to a domestic abuse report at the Edwards mansion and discovered cocaine and used syringes strewn about the master bedroom. They also learned that Edwards’ wife had stabbed him with a broken crack cocaine pipe.
Eventually, the Edwardses lost their luxury homes and cars and jet plane to foreclosure, and retreated to living in a warehouse where they had stored collectibles such as two life-sized statues of the Blues Brothers, antique jewelry, replica medieval armor and a pair of carved granite sphinxes.
They were evicted in the summer of 2007 from the warehouse for failure to pay the rent. Authorities discovered drug paraphernalia throughout the unit.
The collectibles were sold for $160,000 at auction — the last of David Lee Edwards’ $27 million Powerball prize. The proceeds went to a long line of creditors.
Details for this story were by The Independent of Ashland and the New Times magazine of Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Independent and the Richmond Register are both CNHI newspapers.