Inmate May Be Million Dollar Winner

Wednesday, July 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) — Inmate Brian McCluskey may have found heaven at the Purgatory Correctional Facility. A bag of M&Ms he earned for helping with chores at the jail could be the million-dollar winner of a national contest — or another bag of candy.

Deputy Julie Pugmire gave the candy to McCluskey as a reward for helping her pass out commissary items.

When he opened the bag Friday, the 27-year-old found candies that were sky blue, white, purple — colors he'd never seen before. Other inmates told him he might have won M&Ms' ``Fix-Up the Mix-Up'' contest, which they had seen advertised on television.

``Several of the deputies saw it, several of the inmates ... there isn't any question in my mind (that he won),'' Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith told The Associated Press on Wednesday. ``We're confident he has the bag advertised as the winning bag. It was put in property then given to his wife.''

But Mars Inc., which distributed a million and one bags containing the specially colored M&Ms, has not verified that McCluskey was the winner. Only one of the bags has a game piece that identifies the winner. The million others get a 16 ounce bag of candy.

``We have no idea if it's true or not,'' said Pat D'Amato, a spokeswoman for M&M Mars division, based in Hackettstown, N.J. ``They have to send the game piece in to us to determine if that person is a grand prize winner or not.''

Pugmire told the AP she saw a game piece that said ``instant winner,'' but adds: ``I only read a little of it.''

For now, the bag is being kept in a safe-deposit box until it is authenticated. Mars said it may take weeks to determine the winner.

McCluskey is serving a one-year jail sentence for attempted possession of methaphetamine. Smith said he was happy for his inmate's potential good fortune.

``I would've been happier for Julie, but that's the way life goes,'' he added.