Mystery California Lottery Winner is Disabled Grandma

By Janet Zappala and Jason Kandel
|  Friday, Nov 2, 2012  |  Updated 11:45 PM PDT
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Lottery officials had been searching for five months for the winner of the $23 million Super Lotto jackpot. It wasn't until they posted a surveillance photo of a woman at a liquor store in Palmdale that the winner finally came forward. Janet Zappala reports from San Bernardino for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2012.

Janet Zappala

Lottery officials had been searching for five months for the winner of the $23 million Super Lotto jackpot. It wasn't until they posted a surveillance photo of a woman at a liquor store in Palmdale that the winner finally came forward. Janet Zappala reports from San Bernardino for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2012.

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The winner of the $23 million California Lottery jackpot had one dollar in her pocket, had just shut off her cable and had a $600 electricity bill.

She'd driven around for months with the winning ticket in her glove compartment, unaware of the value of the slip of paper tucked inside.

When the California Lottery finally tracked her down and Julie Cervera, a 69-year-old disabled widow and grandmother, learned of her winning ticket, the news was nothing short of a miracle.

Cervera, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, accepted her check on Friday and basked in the media glow. She said she planned to buy shoes -- everything ranging from Vans to Reeboks.

"It hasn't hit me yet, but I'm gonna get me some Nikes," said Cervera, who has many diabilities from over the years. "I'm going to get me five pairs of different shoes ... Now I can finally afford it."

With the rest of the money, she said she'd take care of her six kids and 18 grandkids. She's also planning to buy a house for her daughter who was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

She also plans to give a big portion to two special children she adopted after she became a widow.

Five months after the winning ticket was sold and with only 25 days left to claim the prize, the California Lottery has finally found her.

A surveillance image was released as part of the lottery's search for its winner. Cervera's daughter Charliena recognized herself in the photo (below) buying the winning ticket which led to her mother.

If the ticket was not redeemed by Nov. 26, the winnings would have been transferred to California schools.

The winning ticket was purchased for the May 30 draw at Michael's Market & Liquor, located at 37935 47th St. East in Palmdale. The winning numbers were 14, 7, 26, 31, 23 and Mega 5.

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