WRTV Misidentifies Lottery Winner, Airs Interview with His Estranged Wife

By Merrill Knox Comment

A story about an anonymous lottery winner in Shelbyville, IN, took a strange turn recently when the winner was incorrectly identified by WRTV, the ABC-affiliate in Indianapolis.

Several local news outlets, including WRTV and Fox-affiliate WXIN, identified the winner as James Prather. On February 24, WRTV interviewed Prather’s estranged wife, Ericka, who hired an attorney to stake her claim to half of the $34.5 million jackpot. She told WRTV’s Chris Proffitt that her husband called her and asked her for a divorce after he won the lottery.

“I was like, is it because you just hit the lottery?'” she said in the interview. “And he’s like, ‘huh?’ He tried to say he didn’t, but then he’s like, ‘Yeah, I did.'”

One problem: Prather may not be the lottery winner.

The $34.5 million was accepted by Indianapolis attorney Geffrey Rainbolt on behalf of an anonymous winner, reportedly a Shelbyville resident in her 70s. Rainbolt said he could have confirmed that Prather was not the lottery winner had he been contacted.

“I was surprised that confirmation wasn’t sought by the news sources reporting the information,” Rainbolt told the Indianapolis Star. He said he was contacted by “Inside Edition” and “20/20.”

Prather was also identified as the lottery winner by WXIN. News director Lee Rosenthal told the Star that the station was given Prather’s name from the store that sold the winning ticket. WXIN did not name Prather in follow-up reports after Rainbolt came forward and said he was not the winner.

>Update: WRTV news director Kevin Finch tells TVSpy that the station is still attempting to corroborate the story and has contacted Rainbolt, among others, to try to confirm the winner’s identity. “We reported on a woman who claimed to be the lottery winner’s wife,” he said. “If we were incorrect in doing so, we’ll admit it.”