North Carolina man Michael Todd Hill was living the dream in the summer of 2017, when he won a $10 million lottery prize from a gas station scratch-off ticket. Now, he’s been sentenced to prison for the rest of his life for murder.
The former nuclear power plant employee opted years ago for a smaller up-front sum, and after taxes, got more than $4 million in walking-around money. Hill voiced plans to pay bills and invest in his wife’s instructional design business.
More than four years later, though, the 54-year-old has been convicted of murdering his much-younger girlfriend Keonna Tavangela Graham, 24, in a hotel room, leaving her dead for housekeepers to find on July 20, 2020.
Jurors found Hill guilty on Friday of first-degree murder, and possession of a firearm by a felon, according to WECT. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder charge, and a concurrent punishment of between 22 and 36 months for the firearms charge.
Authorities said that Hill shot Graham in the back of the head while she was lying in bed in the SureStay Hotel in Shallotte, North Carolina. Surveillance footage showed that the lottery winner was the only person in the room with her, officials said.
At the time of the incident, a hotel manager said that Hill was the one who checked in, and none of the employees had seen Graham, according to WECT. Housekeeping found the body after Hill did not check out.
Graham’s mother had also reported her missing after she did not show up to work on July 19, 2020.
“She was very loved, and she’s very beautiful,” family friend Tiffany Wilson said of Keonna in 2020.
Hill went from a being a millionaire to being an accused killer, telling the court at the time that he could not afford an attorney. The clerk who sold him the winning lottery ticket reportedly said that he gave her $2,000 as a thank-you. Employees said he seemed like a nice guy.
But the autopsy report noted that the couple had domestic problems in the past, according to WECT. Hill confessed to murdering Graham, saying that he discovered at the hotel that she was texting other men. Graham and Hill were in a relationship for more than a year and a half after he won the lottery.
[Booking photo via Brunswick County Detention Center]
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