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.