Thousands Watched As 15 Contestants Competed In 'Mystery Millionaire' Finale
DES MOINES, Iowa - A retired police officer won $1 million, two other Iowans won $100,000 prizes and 12 more claimed prizes of $25,000 or $50,000 in the Iowa Lottery's "Mystery Millionaire" finale Sunday at the Iowa State Fair. Thousands of fairgoers crowded in to watch and cheer during one of the biggest live give-aways in the lottery's history.
Dean Stuhr of Des Moines, who retired in April after 42 years on the Des Moines police force, made it through the show's three rounds of competition to win the top prize of $1 million. The final round had come down to three contestants who chose fair-themed tickets on a stick to determine their prize. Stuhr's ticket revealed "$1 million" while the other two finalists took home $100,000 prizes.
"I would have been happy with $100,000, really," Stuhr said after the show. "This is just overwhelming. It's just unbelievable."
When asked about plans for his winnings, Stuhr, 65, replied: "Help out family, more than anything."
"I had no clue this was going to happen," he said with a laugh. "I'm glad it did! But I had no clue."
Sheree Watson of Charles City won a $100,000 prize, as did Thuan Duffert of Des Moines, who was represented during the show by family friend Jen Larson, also of Des Moines.
Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich said it was a thrill to create a fun day at the Fair out of some unusual circumstances for the lottery.
"Our idea was definitely to spread the luck around across Iowa and we really brought that to life," Rich said. "Our players, our retailers and anybody at the Iowa State Fair on Sunday all had a chance to get in on the fun."
The Mystery Millionaire finale, with more than $1.6 million in prizes, capped off a busy summer promotion that had come about because of two unclaimed jackpots. One of those big prizes - a Hot Lotto® jackpot won with a ticket purchased in Des Moines - generated international headlines when lawyers representing a trust turned in the winning ticket with less than two hours to go before the prize would have expired, but ultimately withdrew the claim in late January.
And just before that hub-bub started, an even bigger prize - that one a $77 million Powerball' jackpot won in Georgia - also expired without being claimed.
The money from those unclaimed jackpots goes back to the individual lotteries that sell the games in proportion to the percentage of sales that came from each state. Iowa's share was a total of about $2 million.
With the unclaimed jackpots occurring in Hot Lotto and Powerball, the lottery designed a summer promotion to give away the money that also focused on those two games.
Lottery players entered more than 197,000 tickets during the Mystery Millionaire entry period in July, then 49 winners were selected in the promotion's initial drawing on Aug. 2. Thirty-four players won $10,000 prizes that day, while the other 15 advanced to compete in the State Fair event for prizes from $25,000 up to $1 million.
The eight contestants who each won a $25,000 prize during Sunday's finale were:
The four lottery players who each won a $50,000 prize were
The first 1,000 fairgoers who checked in at the live finale received registration tickets to attend the give-away, and 15 of them won prizes from $250 to $1,000 during the 1 p.m. show.
Jack Barnard of Ankeny
Carla Freel of Des Moines
Connie Sanders of Oskaloosa
Lynda Sodhi of Apache, Okla.
Leonard Strange of New Virginia
Aaron Swales of Des Moines
Ruth Tibbles of Council Bluffs
Darrin Toney of Ames
Clifton Brewer of Chariton
Travis Cook of Colfax
Linda King of Marshalltown
Ladonna Lines, also of Marshalltown
Leo Jellison of Manchester
Julia Reichert of Muscatine
Tiffany Johnson of St. Charles
The lottery retail locations that sold the winning tickets to Sunday's 15 contestants also won prizes ranging from $500 to $2,000, based on how their player did in the finale. Those businesses were:
Blairstown Quick Stop, 321 Locust St. N.W. in Blairstown
Casey's General Store, 5226 University Ave. in Cedar Falls
Casey's General Store, 5150 N.E. 14th St. in Des Moines
Casey's General Store, 65 Williams Blvd. in Fairfax
Fareway, 1635 W. 53rd St. in Davenport
Hawkeye Convenience Store, 1581 First Ave. S.E. in Cedar Rapids
Hy-Vee, 4064 E. 53rd St. in Davenport
Quik Trip, 11925 University Ave. in Clive
Casey's General Store, 3509 Steamboat Way in Muscatine
Hy-Vee, 802 S. Center St. in Marshalltown
Lefty's C-Store, 105 S. Main Ave. in Alburnett
Moore's IGA, 808 S. Main St. in Monona
Git-N-Go, 4164 Easton Blvd. in Des Moines
Kwik Star, 605 Gilbert St. in Charles City
Hy-Vee, 3221 S.E. 14th St. in Des Moines