David Lee Edwards, who went from unemployed ex-con to Powerball millionaire and whose life became a testament to the seductive and destructive powers of sudden wealth and fame, died Saturday in Community Hospice Care Center in Ashland.
Mr. Edwards was 58. The cause of his death was not immediately known, but he had been widely reported to have been in failing health in recent years.
Mr. Edwards also had been out of the public eye since returning to the Ashland area in 2007 after being kicked out of his mansion in an exclusive gated community in Florida.
Mr. Edwards was thrust into the national spotlight in August 2001, when he won a one-fourth share of a $280 million Powerball jackpot. At the time, it was the third-largest lottery pot in U.S. history. He opted for a lump-sum payment of $41 million, banking $27 million after taxes.
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At the time of his windfall, Mr. Edwards was 46, had been laid off from his job installing fiber-optic cable and was living in his late parents' house on Victoria Avenue in Westwood. He had borrowed money from a friend to get his water turned back on, and, after doing so, he had enough left to take his then-fiancee, Shawna Maddux, 19 years Mr. Edwards' junior, to go out for drinks at the Ashland Plaza Hotel. Along the way, the couple stopped at Clark's Pump-N-Shop on Wheatley Road, and Edwards bought $7 worth of Powerball tickets.
Mr. Edwards learned that he'd hit the jackpot when he heard the winning numbers announced on the radio in his car in the Ashland Plaza parking lot. He would later tell reporters he picked the winning numbers himself, rather than relying on the computer to do it for him, and he felt that God had compelled him to choose the winning numbers.
Several days after his monumental win, Mr. Edwards and Maddux stood before television cameras at the Louisville Slugger Museum, where Mr. Edwards received a ceremonial check. Reporters grilled Edwards about his past, which included a stint behind bars for the armed robbery of a convenience store 20 years earlier and repeated parole violations that kept sending him back to prison.
Mr. Edwards acknowledged that he'd made some mistakes in his life, but he said that was all behind him. He also said he planned to put his newfound fortune to the best and wisest use he possibly could.
"I 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," he said. "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, in practically the next breath, he said he planned to buy himself a Rolls-Royce and that Maddux wanted a Ferrari.
In November 2001, Mr. Edwards and Maddux moved into a 6,000-square-foot, $1.5 million home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The couple married in Maui on New Year's Day 2002.
During his time in Florida, Mr. Edwards amassed a fleet of exotic cars, for which he paid more than $1 million. He also told NBC News that he paid $78,000 for the gold-and-diamond watch on his wrist and $159,000 for the ring he wore. He also boasted of having 200 swords in his collection of replica medieval weapons, and a plasma TV he said set him back $30,000.
Mr. Edwards also bought a $600,000 house in Palm Springs, Calif., his own limo company, a $1.9 million Lear jet, three racehorses and a fiber-optics installation company, which he acquired for $4.5 million. A year after he'd won the lottery, he estimated that he'd spent $12 million.
In addition to spending profligately on himself and his family, Mr. Edwards reportedly gave generously to old friends who hit him up for cash. He also donated to several local nonprofit organizations, including the Westwood Volunteer Fire Department and the Westwood Boys Club.
The Edwardses' life eventually began to spiral out of control, fueled, according to a Florida newspaper account, by their escalating drug use. Police were called to their home on one occasion in 2004 after Shawna Edwards stabbed her husband with a crack pipe.
In September 2005, police again visited the mansion and found the couple's master bedroom littered with used syringes, along with a quantity of cocaine.
The Edwardses eventually lost their mansion to foreclosure and moved into a warehouse complex that David Edwards had rented to store his cars and furniture. At the beginning of 2007, Shawna Edwards drove her husband to Orlando and checked him into a hospital. He could barely walk. Not long after that, Mr. Edwards' ex-wife and her husband drove him back to Kentucky.
In March 2007, Shawna Edwards was picked up by police near Orlando on a Boyd County warrant charging her with failure to pay $17,000 in child support to the father of two of her children.
The Edwardses would eventually divorce, and in August, Shawna Edwards, now known as Shawna Johnson, was arrested on a first-degree assault charge for allegedly stabbing her boyfriend in a Scott County motel. The victim suffered 10 or 11 stab wounds, but his injuries weren't life-threatening, police said. Johnson could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted.
Mr. Edwards' funeral arrangements were incomplete at press time. Caniff Funeral Home in Westwood is handling the arrangements.