Couple claims $1 million lottery a day before ticket expiration date

STALLINGS, NC (WBTV) - A couple from Union County held on to a winning $1 million lottery ticket they bought in August until it was about to expire – and then cashed it in for the money on Tuesday.

Erin and Raleigh Hill of Stallings shared a $1 million win in the N.C. Education Lottery's Mega Millions game, claiming the prize one day before the winning ticket was scheduled to expire.

 There was mystery surrounding the winner -- as the Lottery Commission put out the word this week that a ticket was about to expire. WBTV even did a story about the missing winner.

Raleigh Hill, a baggage handler, said he discovered that his $2 Megaplier ticket had matched all five white balls, earning him and his wife an automatic $1 million prize, a couple of weeks after the Aug. 20 drawing.

But he said he waited about two or three weeks more to tell his wife, Erin, a federal government employee. He said he finally told his wife at the end of a bad day for her.

"Things aren't all that bad," he told her as he left the winning ticket on a computer screen after displaying the winning numbers.

Erin Hill said she wanted to come and claim the prize, but Raleigh said he wasn"t ready to do it.

So for weeks he hid the ticket. First he hid the ticket in an envelope and then he put it in a Bible, which at times he kept in the fireplace at the home, then in a shoebox and finally in his locker at work. The couple told no one of the good luck.

At one time, he said, he thought he had lost the ticket before remembering it was in the shoebox in a closet.

"When she brought the subject up, I'd always say 'We'll talk about it'," he said as he claimed the prize Tuesday at N.C. Education Lottery headquarters in Raleigh. "It wasn"t about the money. It was the attention. The hoopla. … You cannot describe it. I was overwhelmed. Nervous."

Erin Hill said the couple feels blessed by their good luck. They plan to pay some bills, possibly buy a new home, and take a trip to Ireland, because of her Irish heritage. They split the $1 million prize. Each received $340,000 after taxes.

The ticket was purchased at the Market Express, located at 2800 Old Monroe Road in Matthews in Mecklenburg County. Winners have 180 days to claim their prizes. The Hill's ticket was scheduled to expire at 5 p.m., Feb. 16.

Before the Hills were announced as winners, managers at the Market Express say several men came in claiming to have had the winning ticket but say they inadvertently threw it away.

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