Ticket was purchased in Arkansas and is the state's largest-ever jackpot winner
Includes video report
By Todd Northrop
A couple from Abernathy, Texas, Monday claimed a $177 million jackpot in Arkansas from the March 31 Mega Millions drawing.
Eliberto and Anita Cantu claimed the prize Monday during a press conference in Arkansas.
They chose to take the prize as a lump sum so the amount was $72,901,274. The State of Arkansas said it took $7,504,543 in taxes.
Their son, Rodrigo Cantu, spoke on their behalf. He said the couple's home town is Abernathy, Texas, while a lottery official described them as being from Lubbock.
Either way, the younger Cantu said his mom and dad plan to use the money to build two new churches — one in Abernathy and one in Post.
Suzie Turner, Eliberto's neice, said her uncle is always giving to other people whenever he can.
"They deserve it because, if anyone ever needed anything, they would try to give it to them, or find a way to give it to them," Turner said of her aunt and uncle. "They're just that kind of family."
Turner said Cantu, 71, of Abernathy wanted to wait before he told people about his new fortune.
But by Monday afternoon, the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery had broadcast a livestream on its Facebook page announcing Cantu as the winner of its $177 million jackpot — the biggest lottery win in the history of the state.
"They hadn't told nobody," Turner said. "They told my other aunt and of course she couldn't hold her tongue (and) told my dad, my dad told my mom so by the time we saw it on Facebook, we already knew. I was like, 'wow'... They're overwhelmed, I'm sure."
Rodrigo said his dad was in Arkansas as part of a five-week construction job.
"They travel around in a little travel trailer, so they just kind of go around from job to job," Rodrigo Cantu said. "He's been playing since Texas started its lottery. ... I'm sure they'll keep playing. You can't break a 30-year-old habit."
"He did buy 180 tickets one time and got no money out of it," Rodrigo said.
"That morning he stopped at a Valero," Rodrigo continued. "His co-workers didn't want to stop, but he convinced them to stop so he could get a lottery ticket and coffee."
After winning, Rodrigo Cantu said, his dad sold his travel trailer to a co-worker for $1 and began getting legal and financial advice.
"It's very daunting," he said. "It's a lot of money. You have to make sure everything is right, down to security for my parents once this gets out."
With six children and about 17 grandchildren, the son said his parents are looking forward to taking care of their families. And their first priority is rebuilding Bethel Baptist Church in Abernathy.
"It's definitely a blessing," Rodrigo Cantu said. "It's kind of sunk in for some. My mom still doesn't believe it. Even though she's held the check, she's got to actually see it in the account. On the flipside of that, they've never had a credit card, they've never written a check — it's all been through money orders. My dad just recently got a debit card a couple of years ago, so I don't know if it'll ever sink in."
Technically the Cantu's were winners twice over in that drawing.
"They also won three dollars as well," Rodrigo said.
Rodrigo said his mom and dad are ages 71 and 68, and he eventually convinced his dad to retire. But, it might take a while for him to break the habit of waking up early every morning.
"He got up the other morning at 5:30 and realized he didn't have to go," Rodrigo Cantu said.
The gas station where the ticket was sold will receive a $50,000 bonus commission on the sale and the state of Arkansas will receive about $7 million in taxes.
Turner said she's happy for her uncle and aunt and hopes they'll be able to enjoy life a little more.
"They've done their share of traveling. It's not like they never did anything, but they did stuff on a regular budget and now they actually have money to splurge," Turner said. "They lived life, but now they can actually live life."
VIDEO: Watch the press conference
71-year-old Texas construction worker claims $177 million Mega Millions lottery jackpotA couple from Abernathy, Texas, Monday claimed a $177 million jackpot in Arkansas from the March 31 Mega Millions drawing.PT17M00Shttps://img.youtube.com/vi/3xF7d6KRhkU/hqdefault.jpghttps://youtu.be/3xF7d6KRhkU2017-04-19T10:08:00-05:00
(Click to display full-size in gallery)