Marie Holmes, a young single mother, was living in a trailer, struggling to make ends meet for herself and her four children, one of whom was disabled. That’s when, seemingly out of nowhere, she won the Powerball jackpot — and subsequently had to face a series of unforeseen events that threatened to tear her life apart.
Marie Holmes had fallen on difficult times. A single mother, she had four small children, all under the age of 10, and she herself was just 26. Making ends meet was an incredibly challenging uphill battle. To try and support herself and her family, she had been revolving between a variety of jobs, including roles at McDonald’s and Wal-Mart.
That was until her son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which caused her to have to take a leave from work and stay home in order to take care of him. Little did she know at the time, but something was on the horizon that would soon alter her future forever — though not entirely for the best.
Small Town Troubles
Marie was living in a trailer in Shallotte, North Carolina, a small town of less than 4,000 souls not far from the sea shore and the South Carolina border. The father of her youngest child, one-year-old Ebony, was called Lamarr “Hot Sauce” McDow, and he had been supporting Marie through two years of difficult times.
Yet all the while, Lamarr had demons of his own to battle. In spite of it all, though, their lives were about to change in an incalculable way. And as he attempted to weather the storm, Lamarr and Marie were about to get mired down in troubles they could not even fathom.
A Menial Errand
Marie had not had an easy upbringing. Her father Elroy was in jail serving out a five-year sentence on drug charges. However, her mother, Fontella, was thankfully still in the picture. On an otherwise uneventful day in early 2015, Marie sent her mom out on a fated errand.
Fontella was setting out for church, when Marie slipped her $15 and asked her to stop on the way at their local Scotchman convenience store, to pick up five Quick Pick lottery tickets for the Powerball jackpot. It was a simple request for an everyday task, but it was about to irreversibly alter the course of their lives.
Marie hadn’t been anxiously awaiting the results of the lottery. After all, what was the probability that something so random could actually work for her and lift her up out of her difficult situation? Sending her mother to pick up the tickets at the convenience store was just a simple act that anyone might do with their spare money.
She had not been counting on it to actually come true. So, in fact, she wasn’t watching on February 11 when the winning numbers for the Powerball jackpot were announced on television. But the next morning, she discovered the incredible news — and began to scream.
A Life-Changing Moment
Bewildered, Marie’s children asked her what was happening, wondering on Earth what was making their mom jump all over the place, shrieking. Marie, in turn, could barely even explain to them what was happening. Besides, they were too young to understand any of it. But their mother had just won one-third of the Powerball jackpot.
That meant their world, which up until now had been confined to a trailer, was about to change beyond all recognition. But what’s more, that same childlike innocence was about to help shield them for understanding the far more sinister chain of events on the horizon.
Beating The Odds
Marie’s odds had been 175 million to one. She had won one-third of the $564.1 million Powerball jackpot, to the tune of $188,000,000. In fact, Marie had made state history, snatching up the highest amount ever taken in a lottery by a resident of North Carolina.
Naturally, after taxes, she wouldn’t be able to keep all the money. But even after deductions, she could still walk away with the hefty sum of $88,000,000. She now had the option: to receive her money steadily, in installments across the next 30 years, or all of it in one lump sum. What would she choose?
Already, Marie’s life was changing before her eyes. It would have been mind-blowing enough for someone with a more stable life to win the Powerball jackpot. For this single mother who had just barely been scraping by, the events unfolding were beyond her wildest fantasies.
Almost immediately, she had to have a security detail accompany her from place to place, which took some getting accustomed to. She also had to take up lawyers and financial advisers. While the odds of winning the lottery are unimaginably rare, such a sudden and exponentially massive financial upswing has to be properly managed. And Marie was about to do something the experts strongly advised against.
In The Spotlight
When initially asked what she would like to do with her staggering lottery winnings, Marie Holmes admitted that she didn’t really know. Indeed, in the face of such an unbelievable life change, most people certainly would not have a clear vision off the bat.
She mulled over the idea of returning to school, as perhaps now she would finally have the opportunity to complete her college degree. Also, the idea of travel was tantalizing, particularly for someone who had never left the United States; Paris seemed appealing. But her next statement about her funds was about to attract some unwanted attention.
All through her times of trouble, Marie had been a faithful churchgoer. Now, she knew she wanted to use a portion of her funds to put toward her church, and similar charities. She made good on her word, cutting a check of $680,000 to the church she had attended in Shallotte, the Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church.
Yet although this generous sum was but a drop in the bucket compared to what she had won, it was potentially a risky move. Most financial experts advise against making drastic, life-altering purchases right after winning the lottery. And her next purchase was about to backfire.
Moving On Up
Marie took her family and left the confines of their trailer far behind, never to look back. She wouldn’t even have to buy an apartment for her new and improved living conditions. Now, thanks to the Powerball jackpot, she had the funds at her fingertips to immediately give herself a massive upgrade: she could afford her own estate.
Nevertheless, Marie made sure not to stray far from home, purchasing a gated property in Shallotte. The grounds cost her $350,000, and she moved her children into a beautiful five-bedroom home. However, several key characters were about to join her who would interrupt the joy of her journey.
With such an influx of money from lottery jackpots, it seems that suddenly everyone wants to be the winner’s friend, and Marie quickly found she was no exception. Marie had to take extra care of who she surrounded herself with, and who she chose to let into her life and her personal space.
Into her gorgeous new estate came a preacher, Pastor Kevin Matthews. While it wasn’t known what church he was coming from, Marie accepted him into her home. He prayed with her and others present, and ministered to them on several occasions. But what happened next remains up to interpretation, depending on who you ask.
According to Marie and her partner Lamarr McDow, the family felt they were unwelcome in their settings. As the only black family in their area, they felt they were viewed under a microscope. In Lamarr’s words, one neighbor even put a camera up to record their movements.
Everything felt monitored and controlled. For example, according to Lamarr, if he was merely driving down the road on his way home, and even going the speed limit, he would still get waved at and glared at by neighbors claiming he was going too fast. Whatever the case was, their new home was about to make the headlines.
The Estate Is Raided
In July 2015, based on a tip that the smell of marijuana was coming from Marie Holmes’ home, Brunswick County police managed to get a search warrant. When they entered the house, they found the couple entertaining several guests. The house was searched, and Marie and Lamarr, along with two other men, were charged with possession of both marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
One of the men resisted police, adding to his charges list. It was an unfortunate event; though many states are legalizing either medical or recreational marijuana usage (or both), North Carolina is a holdout — not to mention that black Americans have three times the chances of being arrested for possession. Unfortunately, that was not the only thing police found.
From winning the Powerball jackpot, to massive legal troubles: during the police raid on Marie’s new dream home, her partner Lamarr was found to be in possession of a firearm. This was forbidden for him, as he was a convicted felon. Lamarr had been arrested back in November 2014.
It had all began with a tip-off and after an investigation that lasted a year. The whole process had been bolstered by complaints from within the local community, and cops had busted Lamarr and two others. What they had found back then was just the beginning of a long series of troubles for him and Marie.
A Troubled Past
In November 2014, several months before Marie Holmes had won the Powerball jackpot, her partner Lamarr and his associates had been caught with what police estimated to be around 1,600 bags of heroin. In the state of North Carolina, any amount over 28 grams would carry at bare minimum a prison sentence of 225 months.
Lamarr and the others had been charged with possession, as well as intent to process the heroin, sell it, and deliver it to customers. But then Marie had won the jackpot — and as she donated to her church, she also did something with her new money that was bound to attract great controversy.
Bailing Him Out
In March 2015, mere weeks after Marie Holmes had won the Powerball jackpot, for one of her first acts with her newfound fortune, she forked over a whopping sum of $3,000,000. This money was used to pay for Lamarr’s bond and get him out of jail.
Now, just a matter of a few months later, she once again found the man she loved back in prison. And she chose, once again, to use a portion of her lottery money to help him: she now paid $6,000,000 to bail him out! And if she thought her only troubles would come from the law, she had another thing coming.
Cutting A Check
Marie Holmes found herself in extraordinary circumstances. For most ordinary citizens, the funds needed to pay off the legal fees would have been impossible to obtain. The charges set against her partner Lamarr would have kept him behind bars for a lifetime.
But thanks to one lucky slip of paper, Marie’s personal finances were anything but standard. Because of her sudden fortunes in winning the Powerball jackpot, even siphoning off a grand total of $9,000,000 was still just a small percentage of her final cash winnings. Through the drama, yet another episode was opening up — and she was powerless to stop it.
The Pastor’s Promises
Pastor Kevin Matthews, who had frequented her new home, claimed that Marie had made a promise to him, verbally, to donate him $1.5 million. The pastor was a man on a mission. He claimed that on one of his visits, he had discussed with her his dream of building a retreat center, and had settled on the number after a bit of negotiation.
He had already ran ahead to make several financial commitments, all grounded in his understanding that he would be receiving the money from her. Now, according to Matthews, Marie was reneging on her promise. And he intended to take action against her.
Launching The Lawsuit
Pastor Kevin Matthews announced that he was going to sue Powerball jackpot winner Marie Holmes for an eye-popping sum of $10,000,000. The reason, he stated, was not only for backing out on a financial promise he alleged that Marie had made.
He also claimed that he had been suffering from extreme emotional turmoil, depression, and stress, which he said had all been caused by all the business deals he had made based on his understanding that he had been promised that funding. He said his distress had been so great that he had needed to start taking medication. But soon, the ordeal would escalate even further.
The lawsuit that Pastor Kevin Matthews was threatening made headlines — and the news received quite a decent amount of negative responses. Social media and YouTube flared with individuals denouncing the pastor, finding it ridiculous that a man of faith would not only make these accusations, but would try to extort such an extravagant amount of money from her.
The process had been slow, and allegedly when Pastor Matthews filed his suit, he would not grant the name of his attorney to reporters on duty, as the paperwork for the case had not been completed yet. In the meanwhile, the hardship was not easing for Marie and Lamarr.
Spiraling Out Of Control
Just when things could not possibly have become more taxing, they did. Close to New Year’s Day 2016, Lamarr wound up getting arrested once again. Already, he had been bailed out twice, and as a part of his release conditions, had been fitted with an ankle bracelet with GPS that could track his whereabouts.
This time, he was accused of having been involved in illegal street racing. When Lamarr McDow had first been arrested over a year before, he had written that his income was zero, and his assets amounted to a mere $120. Now, he had a powerful protector — but would it be enough?
From Marie’s lottery money, Lamarr had set up a new auto-repair business in an attempt to restart his life in a positive direction. Under the conditions of his bail, he would be allowed to leave his residence between the hours of 7:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. in order to work. His new business employed 11 people, and he had strict terms with them that they could have neither drugs nor guns.
From Lamarr’s perspective, he had to go out on a work run in his pickup, and had been wrongfully detained in a case of mistaken identity. He said there weren’t many job opportunities in their area, and he had been trying to do some good and turn things around for himself and for others. As bail in North Carolina doubles each time it is renewed, his now stood at $12,000,000. What would Marie do this time around?
Though McDow claimed innocence in the street racing charge, many people reacting to the news were less than pleased. Sporting plenty of flashy new gold and diamond jewelry that Marie had bought him, he was accused of being a gold-digger. Many people on social media loudly voiced their opinions that she ought to be rid of him.
Claiming his drug trade days were behind him, Lamarr ended up taking a plea agreement for seven years imprisonment. Between mismanaged finances, a strained relationship, and family ties fracturing from within, the couple felt there was only one person they could turn to.
Fix My Life
Marie Holmes appeared on an episode of the life coach show, Iyanla: Fix My Life. There, she learned a heart-rending secret: her mother had carefully chosen the Powerball jackpot numbers based on the birthday and age of Marie’s deceased brother. Sadly, as a result of the show, the negative consequences of the lottery win now affected the rest of her family, with individuals accusing Marie of having pilfered the ticket that they claimed rightfully belonged to her grandmother.
Because of Marie’s new lifestyle, her mother started taking care of her children, across the country in Seattle. And although ultimately Marie made the decision to post $12,000,000 in bail to help Lamarr yet again, the couple claims it was only natural to do such a thing, to help their loved ones. And there’s one fantastic way they’ve managed to do right.
The Marie Holmes Foundation
All the way at the beginning of her Powerball jackpot winnings saga, before bail bonds and arrests, before preachers and lawsuits, Marie had taken $9.7 million of her winnings, and created her own foundation, The Marie Holmes Foundation, with an aunt of hers, Carmel Wheaton, as the foundation’s executive director. This was the tithe of her winnings she had spoken about.
Her fund helps the underprivileged, whose story Marie can identify with so deeply. They host toy drives and school supply handouts for families in need. At the end of the day, though opinions vary fiercely in regards to Marie and Lamarr’s story, everyone can agree on the fact that she did her best to make sure from the get-go that her lottery winnings would immediately impact her community in a positive way.
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