Depression and suicide for $30 million jackpot winner

Not even two years after Billy Bob Harrell Jr took $30million in the lottery he shot himself in the chest proving the age-old adage that money doesn’t always buy happiness.

Billy Bob in happier times

Billy Bob: Money can’t always buy happiness

Billy Bob Harrell Jr was, like several other big lottery winners, a deeply religious man. Hailing from Houston and after unsuccessfully striving to become a preacher teaching Pentecostal Christian, he needed to support his family another way. Exhausted after a succession of lost jobs and trying to provide for his wife and three teenage sons, he took to stacking shelves at a Home Depot in Northeast Harris Country.

In June 1997 his prayers were answered when he won $31 million on the Texas Jackpot. Billy Bob and his wife held the only winning ticket, and became instantly rich beyond their wildest dreams.

When he picked up his first annual cheque of $1.24 million he went with all his family, friends and minister. Life was everything they had ever dreamed, at least for a while.

Like previous lottery winner Sheelah Ryan, Billy Bob was both a religious man and a generous one,  making large donations to his church and to its members. If they ever needed help he was right there to help them. And for him and his family, Billy Bob bought them all houses and cars for his wife and children.

But the people who wanted money kept coming and coming. The strain of their new found wealth put an ever-growing pressure on his marriage and in February the following year the couple split.

Billy Bob lived for his family and he couldn’t believe what wealth had done to him. On May 22, 1999, not even two years after his jackpot win, Billy Bob stripped himself naked, pushed a shotgun against his chest and pulled the trigger.

Shortly before his death, Billy Bob told a financial adviser: “Winning the lottery is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

A battle continues now for his remaining wealth.

Filed Under: Stories From America


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  1. […] a bitter-sweet note and unlike Billy Bob Harell, another lottery winner of the time who committed suicide , Bud eventually managed to overcome his depression and soldiered on. He died in 2006, with seven […]