How do you explain to your loved ones that you threw away $1 million?
Well, we'll just have to wait to find out, because Kevin Donovan isn't answering questions right now.
In fact, Donovan doesn't even want anybody to know who he is. He's been keeping a low profile since immersing himself in a dispute over a winning $1 million lottery ticket with an 82-year-old Blackstone man who found it in a trash bin.
Donovan, who is seeking to regain ownership of the ticket, has not been identified in public until now. But the Massachusetts Lottery Commission released his name recently in response to a request for previously withheld information about the dispute.
Attempts to find out where Donovan lives were not successful, but he is believed to be a resident of a nearby Massachusetts town.
"I never met him," said Edward St. John, whose refuse-to-riches story made national headlines in early October. "I have no idea who the hell he is."
A grandfatherly-looking man who is often seen rifling through trash receptacles on Main Street, St. John found the winning lottery ticket in a wastebasket inside the White Hen Pantry. The convenience store verified the winnings, and the Massachusetts Lottery Commission later proclaimed St. John the rightful owner of the ticket, pledging to award him the jackpot.
Nevertheless, the Massachusetts Lottery Commission also advised St. John that it wouldn't pay him until Donovan had been granted a hearing to press his rival claim. A decision in the hearing, held last month, is due around Jan. 15, according to lottery officials.
Efforts to reach Donovan for comment about the case have not been successful. Even though St. John attended the hearing to defend his ownership of the ticket, he didn't meet his nemesis because Donovan did not attend. A local lawyer, Daniel T. Doyle, pressed the case, with his client in absentia.
Doyle has not returned repeated phone calls for comment, though he said previously his client wishes to remain anonymous.
At the White Hen Pantry, however, Donovan is a well-known customer, according to Joe Varin, the owner of the convenience store, a popular morning stop for cigarettes, coffee and, well, lottery tickets.
"He's a good person," Varin said recently. "He'd take the shirt off his back for you. All my clerks love him."
Although Donovan comes in the store almost every day, Varin said he doesn't know much about his unlucky customer. Judging from appearances, however, Varin says Donovan seems like a hard-working, blue collar-type who makes a decent living. And he's not a compulsive gambler.
"He's not one of those that has to play the lottery," he said. "He doesn't always buy lottery tickets."
Varin, whose store is counting on a $10,000 commission for selling the winning ticket, says he feels sorry for Donovan. He made a "simple mistake" and "he shouldn't be penalized for it," the owner said. Varin thinks there should be a way to settle the dispute that "makes both sides happy."
But St. John, whose comments to the press have been few and far between until now, says he has no intention of backing down.
"Absolutely not," he says.
The way St. John sees it, he found the ticket fair and square, and nobody is going to take it away from him. After all, he found it in a wastebasket. Who can say who put it there?
"I have this lawyer deal that screwed up the whole darn works," says St. John. "If it weren't for that, I'd have my money right now."
Judging from the talk around town, most people are on St. John's side. Even the lottery commission, following the airing of Donovan's claim on the ticket, deemed the evidence presented to buttress his case "inconclusive." Officials were referring, mostly, to a recording from the store's security camera.
In a previous interview, Doyle claimed that, on the day of St. John's wastebasket windfall, Donovan had spent $600 on the Texas Hold 'em Poker game, purchasing all the tickets on the dispenser at the White Hen. Then he began sorting winners from losers, exposing only a coded bar on each ticket revealing the information -- but not the winning amounts.
Donovan inadvertently placed a winner in a pile with the losers and tossed them all of the latter tickets in the store's trash bin. The jackpot, revealed only after St. John retrieved the ticket from the refuse, turned out to be $1 million.
Doyle had said St. John was in the store watching Donovan sort his tickets before sifting through the wastebasket to fish out his client's discards. Store workers have disputed that curious detail, however, and now St. John has, too.
"Everything they're saying about me is a lie," asserted St. John.
While Donovan has a lawyer fighting on his behalf, St. John's only assistance so far has come from family members and friends. But things might not stay so simple.
Even if the lottery decides to award St. John the money, Donovan can pursue his claim in Worcester Superior Court. Conceivably, Doyle could even get an injunction barring the commission from paying St. John -- at least preliminarily. It wouldn't be impossible for St. John to defend his right to the ticket under those circumstances, but it would be more difficult.
Officials at the lottery commission say the legal basis for awarding St. John the jackpot is that lottery tickets are "bearer instruments," like certain kinds of bonds. The mere possession of such documents is all the proof of ownership required under the law.