PLANT CITY, Fla. – Winning $30 million in the Florida Lottery should have been the best thing that ever happened to Abraham Shakespeare.
But with his newfound wealth came a string of bad choices and hangers-on who constantly hit him up for money. Nine months ago, he vanished. Friends and family hoped he was on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean.
On Friday, detectives confirmed that a body buried under a concrete slab in a rural backyard was his.
The home Shakespeare was found behind belongs to the boyfriend of a woman who befriended him in 2007, the year after he won the lottery. Authorities believe he was murdered and the woman may know something about it, but they do not yet know how he died and have not arrested anyone.
Shakespeare’s brother, Robert Brown, said Friday that Shakespeare often wished he had never bought the winning ticket.
“ ‘I’d have been better off broke.’ He said that to me all the time,” Brown said.
Hillsborough County sheriff’s detectives used fingerprints to identify Shakespeare’s body, which they found buried 5 feet deep and covered by a 30-by-30 concrete slab in the backyard of a two-story ranch house. A tip led them there this week.
When Shakespeare won the lottery, he was an assistant truck driver who lived with his mother in a rural county east of Tampa. He was barely literate, had a criminal record and was extremely generous with his newly acquired wealth.
“He really didn’t understand it at all,” said Samuel Jones, who had known Shakespeare since both were 12. “It was moving so fast. It changed his life in a bad way.”
Jones said Friday that Abraham told him in March that he wanted to get out of Lakeland, where he had bought a million-dollar home. After he chose a lump sum payment of nearly $17 million, people gathered outside his mother’s home, clamoring for cash.
Jones said Abraham would tell him, “I thought all these people were my friends, but then I realized all they want is just money.”