THREE of four Powerball winners step forward to claim their share of prize;

Tuesday, August 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Sheryel Hanuman was at a Minneapolis grocery store buying a card for a wedding when she decided to pick up five Powerball tickets.

That last-minute purchase means the medical records clerk can now entertain almost any other whim: She has one of the four multimillion-dollar winning tickets drawn Saturday night.

``It means a little more freedom,'' Hanuman said Monday after claiming her share of the $294.8 million jackpot. ``It means I'll be able to help my family in ways I wouldn't even have thought of prior to this.''

Joining Hanuman in the third-biggest lottery prize in U.S. history is a Maine couple who hid their winning ticket in a box of cereal, a 46-year-old ex-convict from Kentucky and a mystery winner in Delaware.

Except for the holder of the Delaware ticket, all the winners were identified Monday and all chose the lump-sum payment of $41.4 million, before taxes. With each winning ticket worth $73.7 million, winners also have the option of taking $2.9 million per year for 25 years.

The Maine couple, Pat and Erwin Wales of Buxton, did not attend a news conference in Concord, N.H. But their lawyer, Terrence Garmey, described their jackpot as part of a lucky streak for Pat Wales, 60.

She won $20 in a Maine lottery Saturday, then followed that up with a Megabucks win for $5. ``Then she started to think, 'Maybe this is my lucky day,''' Garmey said.

He said she bought Powerball tickets at a convenience store in Rollinsford, N.H., then stayed up past her bedtime to watch the drawing.

When she realized she had won, ``she began to cry and tremble,'' Garmey said. She tried to awaken her 70-year-old husband, telling him, ``Erwin, we won the Powerball,'' Garmey said. ``And he said, 'Uh huh,' and he rolled over and went back to sleep.''

He said the couple wondered what to do with the ticket. ``And I think they did what any conscientious Maine person would do: They hid it in a box of Corn Chex,'' Garmey said.

The holder of the Delaware ticket, sold at a store in Hockessin, had not come forward by Tuesday morning. Delaware law gives winners a year to claim their prize and allows them to remain anonymous.

For her part, Hanuman, 41, skipped work Monday, telling her boss at Allina Hospital and Clinics that she had personal business. She called back later with the big news and said her boss responded: ``No, you've got to be kidding. Nobody calls with this kind of excuse.''

The Roseville, Minn., woman and her husband, Chrisna, have three sons, ages 11, 10 and 9, and she said she may buy a new house.

The Kentucky winner, David Edwards, 46, who lives outside Ashland, said he was recently laid off from his fiber optics job, needs back surgery and had no idea what he was going to do once his unemployment benefits ran out.

``A lot of people work hard and a lot of people are out of work. And you dream you want a better life, and playing this lottery has done that for me,'' Edwards said.

He bought $8 worth of tickets _ seven for himself and one for his fiancee _ at a convenience store just 90 minutes before the drawing.

``I said, 'Help me, Lord. I know it might not be right of me to ask you this, but can you just let me win this?''' he said.

Kentucky corrections officials said Edwards was convicted of robbery in 1981 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was paroled and returned to prison several times before serving out his sentence in 1997. He also has a conviction for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Asked about his record, Edwards said: ``I've made some mistakes in my past ... but now I can do something positive with my future.''

Edwards said he will probably buy a Rolls-Royce he has had his eye on.

``I'm not one to take a lot of money and splurge on mansions and this and that, but I am sure buying that Rolls,'' he said.