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Pastor sues poor mother after $188 million lottery win

Updated on November 10, 2020

By Megan Liscomb

Winning the lottery is a one in a million chance, and more often, the odds are much worse than that. Single mother Marie Holmes took a random chance and was that one person who hit the jackpot. Despite winning a life-changing $188 million, her pastor would make it the most difficult experience of her life. That’s not the only thing that would make her wish she’d thrown that ticket away…

1. A hard-working mother

Before winning the lotto in 2015, Marie Holmes never anticipated that someday she would have hundreds of millions of dollars. Holmes was a 26-year-old single mother of four young children who worked hard to provide for them. Just before she won, Holmes was working two jobs: one at McDonald’s and the other at Wal-Mart.

As if working two jobs and caring for four kids wasn’t hard enough, Holmes had an extra burden to bear. One of her children had been recently diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and Holmes had left her jobs to care for him. So naturally, when she learned she had won the lottery, it must have seemed like a dream come true.

NEXT: Unfortunately for Holmes, the dream soon became a nightmare.

2. A day like any other day

In February 2015, the North Carolina Powerball jackpot had reached a staggering $564 million. Unaware that she would soon become a wealthy woman, Marie Holmes was still living in a trailer and struggling to take care of her kids. On a whim, she bought a lottery ticket from a gas station convenience store.

“I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I saw the ticket and checked it.” Holmes said, describing the incredible rush she felt from winning that huge sum. Reportedly there were two other tickets sold with the winning numbers, so Holmes would receive a third of the total jackpot.

NEXT: Prize or punishment? Marie Holmes got more than she bargained for when she turned in her winning ticket.

3. How lottery prizes really work

Let’s say you’ve won the lottery. You’re holding the winning ticket in your hands, so you’re instantly mega-rich right? Well, not exactly. If you won $599 or less, you can pick up your cash prize from the spot where you bought your ticket. Larger jackpots, like the one Marie Holmes swooped up, require a lengthier process.

Your state’s lottery board needs to verify the ticket, a process which requires you to fill out a lot of paperwork. Next, there is a waiting period before any funds can be disbursed. Finally, you must choose between receiving your winnings in installments over 30 years or in a smaller lump sum.

NEXT: Marie Holmes had to choose between taking the lump sum or getting installments. Did she make a mistake?

4. Taking her lumps

When she claimed her winnings, Marie Holmes had the choice between a lump sum of $127 million or $188 million in installments. Like many of us would do, Holmes opted for the lump sum, so she could have her riches right away. Do you think she made the right choice?

Most financial experts would say yes. It might seem like it would be better to eventually have more money, but if you were to take the lump sum upfront and invest it wisely, after 30 years it would be worth more than the total of your installments thanks to the magic of compound interest. Of course, this advice only holds up if you invest carefully and avoid extravagant spending.

NEXT: Marie Holmes had big plans for her newfound wealth, but unfortunately, life got in the way.

5. Enjoying her prize

Though she never expected to win big, Marie Holmes quickly made some nice plans for what she hoped to do with her prize money. She pledged to donate money to her church first. Next, Holmes planned to use the cash to upgrade her living situation from a trailer to buying a home. Finally, she would set up college funds for each of her children to give them a shot at a better future.

Holmes was emotional as she told her plans to a local NBC station. “All the struggle that I ever went through, it was all for them. I want them to understand that money doesn’t change you, but it can help you.” Holmes said.

NEXT: Sadly, her troubles were about to begin.

6. Paying the taxman

You’ve already seen how a lottery prize can shrink from $188 million to $127 million just based on the payment plan, but there’s another big expense for new lottery winners to contend with. State and federal taxes can take another big chunk of a lucky winner’s jackpot. At the federal level, lottery winnings are taxed the same as income, with the federal government withholding 25% when the initial lump sum is disbursed.

For winnings that qualify for the highest tax bracket, the government may take a total of 39.6%. If Holmes’ prize was taxed at that rate, she would pay $50 million in federal taxes alone. Then, there’s state tax to pay, which in North Carolina is 5.8%.

NEXT: After paying taxes on her big winnings, more outrageous expenses popped up.

7. The struggle to stay grounded

As a low-wage worker at McDonalds and Wal-Mart, Marie Holmes had no experience dealing with large sums of money like her Powerball winnings, but she didn’t want the money to change her. According to friends and family, Marie had always been a grounded person and they didn’t foresee her getting carried away with her win.

However, Marie would soon be making headlines with the way she managed to spend large sums of money. Where once she had been painted as a deserving winner in the media, she would soon be portrayed as frivolous and foolish. Whether she did the right thing or not is all up to Holmes.

NEXT: Holmes starts spending fast with dramatic consequences.

8. Keep a low profile

Although winning the lottery is exciting, experts advise against making big lifestyle changes too quickly after hitting the jackpot. Many financial advisors say you should wait at least six months after a win before you make a big financial decision, such as quitting your job or buying a new house or car.

Unfortunately, Marie Holmes did not follow this advice, but it’s hard to blame her. After all, would you keep living in a trailer if you knew you had millions in the bank? Plus, Holmes had her children to consider. However, it was the spending she did on her boyfriend that raised the most eyebrows.

NEXT: She paid his bail how many times.

9. Bailing out her boyfriend

LaMar McDow, Holmes’ boyfriend, wound up seeing the most immediate benefit from her windfall. In less than a year after getting her big prize, Holmes paid to bail McDow out of jail on three separate occasions. McDow, who also goes by Hot Sauce, was in jail on drug charges when she bought her lucky ticket, and she bailed him out soon after on a $3 million bond.

McDow was arrested again in July of that year, and she bailed him out to the tune of $6 million. Finally, he was caught up in crime again and she posted a $12 million bond to free him. Here’s hoping that the third time’s a charm and he’s learned his lesson.

NEXT: McDow wasn’t the only one in trouble with the law.

10. Holmes gets charged

McDow’s July arrest led to charges for Marie Holmes as well. Police visited their home to arrest McDow for violating the curfew required with his bond release, and Holmes was charged with possession of marijuana. Two other adults in the home were also charged with possession, and the children were there during the arrest.

Though medical and recreational marijuana has been legalized in over 30 over states, North Carolina (where Holmes resides) remains a holdout. Sadly, though marijuana usage rates are about the same among all races, black people are three times more likely to be arrested for possession and face costly legal consequences.

NEXT: Would standing by her man prove worth it for Holmes?

11. McDow defends his girlfriend’s spending

When McDow saw the headlines bashing Holmes for all the money she spent on his bail, he had to set the record straight. In an interview with Daily Mail Online he said, “We are a couple, and I am the father of her youngest child. This is what people do for each other. She has the money and she can do what she wants with it.”

He continued, “If I had that money then I would do the same for her. People are just jealous because of how much she won and people want to see me locked in jail.” Sounds like Hot Sauce got spicy with his girlfriend’s critics!

NEXT: The Daily Mail piece reveals more about where the lottery money was going.

12. A beautiful new home

According to the Daily Mail, Holmes spent $350,000 to build a new home on a gated piece of property in Shallotte, North Carolina. When McDow was released from jail, he came to live with her and her four children in the new home. Previously, he had lived with them in their trailer.

The piece also revealed that after taxes, Holmes had received a lump sum of $88 million — $100 million less than the headline-grabbing prize that had been previously reported. This disparity between what was reported and what she actually received would come to be very important in her next legal saga.

NEXT: Before we get to her next troubles, get a load of how Holmes took care of her Hot Sauce.

13. Sugar baby

When McDow was arrested back in 2014, he listed his assets at a mere $120. However, when Holmes won the lottery, his fortunes quickly turned around, too. Daily Mail reported that Holmes had used part of her earnings to help McDow establish his own auto repair business. They also said she had bought him a $15,000 Rolex dripping in diamonds.

McDow was eager to clarify that though his bails had totaled $21 million, Holmes had only really paid a fraction of that amount. “So many people are going on that she has paid $21m to get me out of jail, but that ain’t true. It is just 10 percent.” He said.

NEXT: Even their lovely new home turned out to cause trouble for Holmes and McDow.

14. Nosy neighbors

The high-profile lottery winner moved her family into an affluent neighborhood after a lifetime of minimum wage jobs. The inevitable class differences between Holmes, McDow, and their neighbors were allegedly exacerbated by the addition of racial prejudice. McDow told the Daily Mail that their mostly white neighbors had been harassing the family and he suspected their behavior was racially motivated.

McDow said, “One neighbor set up a camera to record everything we were doing. If I was driving down the road and going at the speed limit they would wave at me for going too fast. They did not want us there. They were prejudiced.”

NEXT: Their neighbors weren’t the only nosy folks in Holmes’ life.

15. Can you lend me a million?

Like many lotto winners, Holmes probably wishes she had been able to keep her winnings to herself and remain anonymous. Often, when news spreads that someone has won the lotto, people start coming out of the woodwork to ask for cash, and Holmes was no exception.

In his interview, McDow confirmed that the couple had been fielding many calls from all kinds of people looking for a handout. He said that when that happens, Holmes says to him, “when money comes there are more problems.” If she only knew how many more problems awaited her.

NEXT: Holmes’ generous gift to her church leads to greed.

16. Church on Sunday

Holmes grew up with a strong religious background, so one of her first commitments when she won the lottery was to give 10% of the money to her church. However, it might have been better for her in the long run if she had been able to keep her winnings private and make her donation anonymously.

In some states, lottery winners are allowed to protect their anonymity, but in North Carolina, their names are published. Though experts recommend you don’t tell anyone if you do win the lottery, Holmes had no choice due to North Carolina’s laws. Once the word got to her pastor, a big misunderstanding shattered their relationship.

NEXT: Holmes gives a big gift, and it does not go unpunished.

17. Holmes gave $700,000 to her church

Shortly after her marijuana arrest, Holmes got around to giving back to her church as she had promised. According to a press release at the time, “The first thing she promised was to tithe – or give a tenth of her winnings to charity.” To get the ball rolling, Holmes gave $700,000 to Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church.

The church was grateful for the donation and planned to use it for some much-needed repairs. Holmes called Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church her “home church” and was glad to be able to give it that gift. According to one representative at the time, Holmes and her family had been going to the church for decades.

NEXT: An outside pastor makes a grab for Holmes’ cash.

18. Pastor Kevin Matthews

Outside of Pleasant Hill, there was another pastor who was close to Holmes and her family. Pastor Kevin Matthews claims that God led him to Holmes and that he visited the family several times in their new home and ministered to them. He also says that he tried to help McDow make positive changes and live a better life. He does not appear to have been involved with the family before they won the lottery.

Matthews was hoping to build a retreat, and he eventually asked Holmes for $1.5 million to help him accomplish his goal. He claims that she initially verbally agreed, but they never put a deal in writing. Still, according to Matthews’ story, he went ahead and put his own money down on the property.

NEXT: Pastor Matthews announces his lawsuit.

19. The lawsuit makes headlines

Holmes would soon find herself in the news again, but this time as the target of a lawsuit from Pastor Matthews. He announced his intention to sue Holmes for $10 million, a figure he probably arrived at based on her promise to tithe 10% of her winnings.

However, it looks like he forgot to account for the difference that taxes would make, in addition to her previous gift of $700,000 to her home church, plus the fact that she never even promised him that much to begin with. Matthews said, “Because of the emotional distress and mental stress, they put me through, I had to start taking more medicine for anxiety and depression due to this situation.”

NEXT: The pastor comes out looking bad.

20. The public eye is not kind to Pastor Matthews

Suing a church-going woman for an absurdly high sum isn’t a good look on anyone, least of all a pastor. Matthews’ suit did not hold up well under public scrutiny. There is even a YouTuber who has published a series of videos on the case with “F*** You Kevin Matthews” prominently in each title.

So yeah, people weren’t exactly thrilled with his decision to sue. From the looks of things, his lawyer might not have even followed through on his greedy suit. I can find no public outcome from the suit, and at the time when he allegedly filed he refused to give his lawyer’s name to the reporter because the paperwork wasn’t yet complete.

NEXT: After being arrested, bailing her boyfriend out of jail, and getting sued by a pastor, Holmes still has more troubles ahead.

21. The drama continues

Like any good soap opera, there were still a few more unexpected twists and turns ahead of Marie Holmes. The next devastating news after the Matthews suit was information that came to light about McDow’s infidelities. It seemed that Hot Sauce could not keep his hands to himself.

There were even reports of Holmes paying off his mistresses to leave him alone. A video circulated on Facebook of an anonymous woman who claimed that McDow was taking money from Holmes and giving it to other women in exchange for sexual favors. If true, she probably wishes she’d left him in jail and had her money back.

NEXT: Holmes turns to the Oprah Network for help.

22. Holmes’ Fix My Life appearance

In Holmes’ shoes, any of us would probably be ready to throw in the towel. Exhausted from the constant drama and media scrutiny, Holmes turned to a show on the Oprah Network for some much-needed guidance. The show she would appear on is called Iyanla: Fix My Life.

In case you haven’t seen it, Iyanla: Fix My Life is a talk show featuring relationship expert Iyanla Vanzant. Vanzant is a motivational speaker, life coach, and bestselling author who comes equipped with the Oprah seal of approval. If anyone can help Holmes get her life in order and figure out what comes next, I’d say Iyanla is a great choice.

NEXT: Alas, even her Fix My Life appearance is marked with drama.

23. Holmes’ mother reveals a secret

During the show, Iyanla brought Holmes’ mother out to resolve some issues from their family’s past, and her mother took that as an opportunity to reveal a secret. Apparently, though Holmes thought her winning numbers were random, her mother had in fact carefully selected them.

Her mother said, “I kept dreaming about your brother that we lost. His birthday, he was the third child, he’d have been 25 that year. Those were the numbers.” Though she did pick the numbers, her mother doesn’t regret letting Holmes have the fortune, because she wanted her daughter and grandchildren to have a better life.

NEXT: Marie Holmes really, really can’t catch a break.

24. Even more drama on Fix My Life

In addition to her mother’s secret, Holmes was dealing with more new information during the taping of Fix My Life. During the episode, we learned that McDow was on the verge of heading back to prison, this time sentenced to serve seven years for more drug charges, this time for conspiracy to distribute heroin.

Following the taping, another unexpected surprise popped up. Some of Holmes’ relatives began publicly accusing her of stealing the winning ticket from her grandmother. It seemed the storm of drama and misfortune that surrounded Holmes might never let up. Yet somehow, through it all, Holmes remained dedicated to raising her kids and giving back to her community.

NEXT: Marie Holmes perseveres.

25. The Marie Holmes Foundation

If you live in North Carolina, you might hear about her foundation doing good work in the local community. That’s right, Marie Holmes was successful in her mission to tithe 10% of her winnings, and you can see it in action. She made an initial investment of $9.7 million in her foundation, and much of her money has gone to help underprivileged children.

The Marie Holmes Foundation frequently hosts events such as giveaways for holiday toys and school supplies to help out families who don’t have much to cover those extra expenses. The families she now supports are a lot like hers used to be, and despite her personal hardships, it’s wonderful that she’s using the money to make a difference.

NEXT: If she’s so Christian, why was it okay to play the lotto?

26. A sin to gamble?

Though in some denominations, gambling is looked at as a sin, that isn’t always the case. Christian Post reports one pastor who puts it this way, “You can’t be against the lottery, but your youth department is doing a RAFFLE! Same thing pastor. SAME THING!”

He continues, “You can’t be against the lottery and you have a prize of $500 for whoever brings the most people on family and friends day.” Though some in the Christian community believe that gambling hurts the poor, this pastor had a fair point that games of chance are quite prevalent even in religious communities.

NEXT: So if the church does it, it’s okay? Not so fast, says another pastor.

27. The other side of the story

The debate on whether gambling has a place in Christian life continues. Christian Post reports another pastor who says, “In Scripture, there are instances of casting lots but usually not for material gain. It rather emphasizes the sovereignty of God. For example, Proverbs 16:33 says ‘the lot is cast into the lap but it’s every decision is from the Lord.’”

He went on to say, “Now, having said that, let me tell you that the biblical principles that would dissuade a Christian from gambling are several. First, we must guard against our love of money,” and went on to cite that money is the root of all evil. Though her lottery money brought quite a bit of evil into Holmes’ life, it seems she is also using it for good.

NEXT: If you ever win the lottery, what should you do?

28. What to do if you win

If you ever win the lottery, we hope you’ll remember this story and be very careful. First, be sure to sign your ticket. This certifies that it really does belong to you and will protect you in case it is stolen. Next, find out the specific lottery rules in your state, and make sure you claim your prize money before it’s too late.

If you’ve won a large sum, find a trusted financial advisor who can help you make smart decisions for your future. Finally, keep sticking to your usual budget. It’s okay to make a few little splurges here and there, but it’s important not to let the lottery money go to your head.

NEXT: Should you win the lotto, there are a few “don’ts” to live by too.

29. What not to do if you win

As much as possible, you’ll want to keep your newfound wealth a secret. That’s why the first don’t is: don’t tell anyone. Next, don’t forget about the taxes you’ll have to pay. If they aren’t withheld automatically from your prize, set money aside to pay them later.

The next thing you want to avoid is debt. Don’t let debt keep hanging around. Instead, pay off as much as you can. Finally, don’t make too many lifestyle changes too quickly. You probably won’t win the lottery again, so you want to be sure you spend your money in a sustainable way. Good luck!

Marie Holmes, a hard-working single mother, won $188 million in the lottery and quickly faced betrayal by those she trusted most.

She Had The Winning Lottery Ticket For $564 Million, Then Her Pastor Sued Her

September 8, 2019

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.

Single Mother

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.

Slim Probability

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.

YouTube/NC Education Lottery

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?

Rapid Pace

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.

Giving Back

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.

Facebook/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.

New Acquaintances

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.

Hostile Neighborhood

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.

Outstanding Charges

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.

Controversial Case

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?

Mistaken Identity?

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?

Controversial Figure

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.

This single mother living in a trailer won the Powerball jackpot, making her the highest winner in her state's history. And then, her troubles really began.