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SuperLotto-Winning Couple Strive to Keep a Low Profile in Inglewood

James and Mary Williams have seen more crime in the past year than they like to remember: Would-be burglars broke the windows of their Inglewood home; their daughter was assaulted outside the house, and their car was damaged in a hit-and-run accident.

So excuse them if they’ve been keeping a low profile since they scored big in SuperLotto–and became instant millionaires.

“We have to be careful around here,” Mary Williams, 54, said. “Half the stuff that happens (doesn’t) get reported. You can get your neighborhood against you if they think you’re making it and they’re not making it.”

The family will split a $19.76-million prize with Buena Park resident James Brooks, a 72-year-old retired aerospace worker who also held a winning ticket in last week’s drawing. That amounts to $9.88 million in annual checks of $395,200 for the next 20 years, lottery officials said. The first installment will arrive in four to six weeks.

The Williamses, who have owned a barbecue stand in Los Angeles for 15 years, said they plan to close the shop and buy a house in a safer neighborhood. They also hope to travel, to help their four children who range in age from 14 to 30, and donate to an Alzheimer’s hospice near their home.

“It’s the biggest thing that ever happened to me. It’s exciting,” James Williams, 54, said. “But there’s also the danger of being in this position. I have kids, and people are apt to kidnap (them) or hold them for ransom. . . . That’s the biggest thing that worries me now.”

The Williamses have been playing Lotto, the precursor of SuperLotto, almost every week since the game was introduced in California in October, 1986. They almost always bought two tickets, one with their own choice of numbers and another with a combination picked by the computer.

James Williams bought his lucky ticket on his way to work on New Year’s Day. Although he made a special stop at Richard’s Market in Inglewood to buy the tickets, he says he wasn’t feeling any luckier than usual.

It wasn’t until last Friday when he was on his way to pick up some supplies that he checked his $5 Quick Pick ticket and saw it had the winning combination. Despite his good fortune, he calmly finished his business and then returned home to tell his wife.

“I asked her, ‘What do you think about Jesus?’ She said, ‘He’s all right.’ I asked again. She said the same thing,” Williams said. “Then I told her she didn’t want to be on the telephone right now.”

He handed her the ticket and a copy of the card bearing the winning numbers.

“I told her we had it, but she didn’t take my word for it,” Williams said. “She had to look at it three or four times before she believed it.”

So far, the couple have gone about their life as usual. But there has been one change: For the first time in their lives, the family barbecue stand has been closing at 7 p.m. instead of 10 p.m.

“My husband, he works all the time. And I used to argue with him, ‘Why are you working so hard,’ ” Mary Williams said. “But the other day we were sitting at the table together and I said, ‘Boy, it’s worth $1 million just having you with me.’ ”

* SuperLotto, in which players pick six of 51 numbers, replaced Lotto last month.

* The odds of the new game are 1 in 18 million, slightly better than those of Lotto, which were 1 in 23 million.

* Drawings are Wednesdays and Saturdays at 7:56 p.m.

* Under the Lottery Act of 1985, 50% of total sales are returned to players in prizes, at least 34% is earmarked for public education, and 16% is for operating the games.

James and Mary Williams have seen more crime in the past year than they like to remember: Would-be burglars broke the windows of their Inglewood home; their daughter was assaulted outside the house, and their car was damaged in a hit-and-run accident.

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