State probe, drug arrest trip up Powerball winner
Saturday, December 03, 2005
In a tiny Kentucky town four years ago, a down-on-his-luck ex-convict named David Edwards stepped into a gas station and plunked down a few dollars for a handful of Powerball lottery tickets.
Days later, he was $27 million richer and full of grand plans. He married a woman 20 years younger, resolved to abandon his hard-luck-and-handcuffs days and bought, among other things, a $1.2 million home in a gated Palm Beach Gardens neighborhood.
David Edwards talks to well-wishers in 2001 in front of the Westwood, Ky., store where he bought one of the four winning Powerball tickets.
"I'd starve to death underneath a bridge before I'd do anything illegal," Edwards told a reporter in late 2001.
He lived it up with fast cars, private planes and charitable giveaways. Earlier this year, he showed off his new home on a Learning Channel special: Lottery Homes.
But a host of recent troubles for Edwards — drugs, arrest, a child-welfare investigation — have underscored a stubborn truth for many who stumble on quick money: It's easier to escape the troubled places than to leave behind the troubled past.
Edwards, 50, and his 30-year-old wife, Shawna, were arrested last month at their home in the upscale Ballen Isles community after Palm Beach Gardens police found cocaine and heroin in their bedroom.
Officers had been called to the house because the state Department of Children and Families was conducting a child-abuse investigation. It was unclear what prompted the investigation.
Inside the house, officers found the Edwardses' bedroom full of syringes and needles, in addition to a small tin containing cocaine and heroin, according to a police report.
The Edwardses were raising two children in the house. Police notified DCF that the children were not in school and that there were drugs in a bedroom.
DCF said it would continue to investigate, according to the report. Neither parent has been charged with any crimes against the children.
The couple were booked into the Palm Beach County Jail Nov. 8 on charges of possessing cocaine and narcotic equipment. They were both out again by the next day.
It was the most ordinary of arrests in the most lavish of settings. For Edwards, who could not be reached for comment for this story, it was a throwback to his pre-Powerball days, when he was in and out of prison and living on the margins in Ashland, Ky.
Edwards never finished high school and got into a shootout with police as a teen. He divorced two women and served a series of prison stints — first for holding up a gas station in his hometown and then for violating parole.
Affable and slick-talking, he spent some of his life working for a paycheck. Other times, he didn't work at all.
When the big win came in August 2001, Edwards had been laid off as a fiber-optic installer. With his winnings he bought the house in Palm Beach Gardens and a fleet of sports cars — a Bentley, a Ferrari, a Lamborghini Diablo.
He also gave back. Checks for thousands of dollars were written for good causes in Kentucky: the Boys Club, the volunteer fire department, the elementary school.
"I've known David for years and years," said Ethel Maddux, Shawna Edwards' mother. "He's changed. Both of them have changed a lot."
She meant it mostly in a good way, citing the donations Edwards gave out. Terminally ill and living alone, Maddux said it is Edwards' money that pays for her wheelchair and her home in Ashland.
She knew that David and Shawna had occasional marital problems. In 2004, Shawna Edwards was arrested on a charge of domestic battery.
She did not know that in 2003, David had hired prominent attorney John Christiansen and filed for divorce.
The divorce is still pending, but the couple, from all appearances, are back together