Struggling mom wins $188 million in the lottery only to be sued by her own pastor

One in a million

There are many ways to make money, and some people buy lottery tickets in hopes that one day they will hit the jackpot and win. However, they know that the chances of winning are almost zero to none. The saying ‘one in a million’ couldn’t be more true when it comes to winning the lottery, however for Marie Holmes this was the case. In fact her chances at winning were one in 175 million. The struggling mom from Shallotte, North Carolina didn’t know her life was going to change forever when filled out that ticket.

The pastor

Here we meet Kevin Matthews, the pastor from Marie’s local church in Shallotte, North Carolina. Marie often attended church services and it had a major role in her life. While Matthews provided religious guidance to many members of his community, he also had a very close relationship with Holmes, frequently assisting her throughout the many twists and turns in her life. Matthews often called himself ‘a warrior of christ’ and planned to do great things for his parish.

Winning the jackpot

With no help whatsoever, the single mom decided to take things into her own hands when she went one day down to the local convenience store in her hometown and buy a lotto card. Marie, who is also a very religious woman, is probably one of the luckiest people in the world, because in February of 2015 she found out she was the winner of a whopping $188 million. Marie didn’t know what hit her and how her life was going to have a different turn now, a dramatic one.

Claiming the money

Marie, shocked and speechless, won the Powerball drawing and had 180 days to claim the big prize. She also had a choice between receiving an amount of $188 million in instalments over a period of 30 years, or claiming $127 million at once. Marie chose the second option. After struggling to make ends meet, Marie had suddenly found herself drowning in money and overwhelmed. For a second she thought there that all of her problems were gone, but she couldn’t have been more wrong.

Dressing the part

After she was used to pretty much living in poverty, Marie, who was now a new millionaire, put on a white woolen suit looking very glamorous to claim her big Powerball win. Marie had a hard time hiding her excitement: ‘I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I saw the ticket and checked it..’ It seemed like Marie was ready to take on that new life she had just won.

Stay anonymous

While the lottery commissions allow the winners to stay anonymous, it is almost impossible to stay that way for a long time, especially in the era of social media. Once you start wearing fancy clothes, driving a brand new car, or giving money to a friend in need, everyone will want a piece of the action. Many of them will even say that they would have shared their wealth with you if it was the other way around. This is why many experts will always advise the winners to stay modest and continue on with their lives as before.

What was she going to do with it all?

Winning such an astonishing amount at once can be overwhelming, let alone confusing. However, Marie has sworn that gaining so much money wasn’t going to change her. People stated speculating what she was going to do with the sum. Her uncle, for instance said: ‘Marie is very grounded and she will know what to do with all that money.’ Other people thought she was going to buy a new home, but not anything extravagant. Some were saying that she was going to donate some to her church. But what was her real plan?

It’s all for them

Everything is all for them’ said the single mom…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. So they don’t have to worry about debt, none of that. They can go to college, all on me.’ From debt to winning it all, Marie, who has seen it all, including seeing her own father in and out of prison, pledged she was going to put her children’s interests first.

Take me to church

However, once again, Marie was about to realize that her dreams were to become a nightmare. After the Shallotte mom of four won the big prize, she vowed she would give her beloved church a big donation. She loved church and she had a close relationship with her pastor, Kevin Matthews. Kevin was there for Marie throughout her struggle, giving her counseling and providing her with guidance. He always made her believe that he wanted nothing in return.

Giving back to the community

Being so close to her pastor and due to her love for the Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Shallotte, Marie notified Kevin that she was going to donate roughly 10% of the total sum in order to purchase a piece of land and build a retreat centre. Marie, who is the winner of the grand prize, said she would donate the incredible amount of $1.5 million to the church. That is definitely generous of her, and in general, deciding to give back to her community is a nice deed.

Her donation

While it is not the first time that a lottery winner chooses to donate part of his earnings to the church, Marie’s planned donation was definitely one of the highest amount ever heard in the United States. several pious lottery winners from Tennessee and Boston contributed significant sums to their local churches, with the latter giving $100,000 in order to fund a special Christmas dinner. However, none of these contributions even came close to Marie’s astronomical donation.

From poor to rich

The change in Marie’s life is undeniable. She literally went from poor to rich in just one day. In her wildest dreams, she never imagined that she would one day be the owner of so much money. Yet, the mom of four, who had worked multiple jobs to support her family, was facing a new reality. She didn’t know that having so much money would cause her so many problems. Marie had no idea what was coming her way.

More money, more problems

Marie and Kevin have made an agreement that Marie would donate $1.5 million to the local church. However, let’s just say, Matthews was hungry for more. The church leader who had given guidance to the single, struggling mom, decided to sue Marie, in an unprecedented way, as she had allegedly promised him more than the $700,000 that she had already donated. Unexpectedly, Marie Holmes found herself facing a $10 million lawsuit that was filed by Pastor Matthews.

Verbal agreement

According to the reports, pastor Kevin Matthews was suing Marie for going back on her promise to donate tenth of her sum, a promise she made verbally. There was no signed contract, the whole deal was sealed verbally. According to Kevin, based on the promised amount, he had made several financial commitments which came crashing down as soon as he realized he wasn’t going to get the amount that he thought he would get.

Emotional distress

The local pastor, Kevin Matthews claimed that Marie’s reneging led him feeling emotionally distressed: ‘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….I didn’t see this coming and I think it was a third party that came along and told her not to do this.’ No one could see this lawsuit coming, especially not Marie herself.

His word against hers

Matthews went on to say: ‘The bottom line…I just want her to do what she said she was going to do. I want peace and to do what God told me to do. I want her to do what she said she was going to do. I really feel like a warrior for Christ and people need to be accountable.’ There’s no doubt that this is one of the most bizarre cases when it comes to winning the lottery and its aftermath, but needless to say that the people started having a very strong opinion on their pastor.

They saw him in a different light

Before the whole lottery drama hit the local news, and later national TV, the community of Shallotte, North Carolina adored their local pastor, Kevin Matthews. However, after the way everything went down with single mom Marie Holmes, the community started seeing him in a whole new light. Some people took to social media to share their thoughts. The lawsuit had its backlash, and it wasn’t pretty as you can see below.

Her house

The host also had a lot to say about Marie’s choice of her new home, which is a plantation. Marie responded by saying that she only bought it so her children could have a backyard for them to play. During her counseling, Iyanla said to Marie that she believes that her house still has bad energy stored in it from when the plantation housed slaves. Iyanla claimed that the plantation projected a negative energy which affects her current state along with all the other troubles that she is going through in her personal life.

The numbers weren’t random

During the show, it was revealed that Fontella was actually the one who picked up the winning ticket, after Marie had given her $15 on her way to church. When Marie sat to have a hard talk with her mother as part of the show, she found out that the truth about the numbers which led to the big win of $188 million. It turns out that the numbers were far from being random.

It stays in the family

Marie had discovered that her mother Fontella had a very careful selection of the numbers: ‘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.’ This chilling truth about the not-so-random numbers left Marie overwhelmed and stunned. Marie said that she wishes she had known this earlier as it would have been her mother’s win and not hers. Her mom, on the other hand, wouldn’t have had it any other way.


Many people do not know that it’s extremely important to sign your ticket when you buy it (even if you don’t believe you have a chance of winning), and that they should store it in a safe place. The signature is to prove that your are the legitimate owner of the ticket, while keeping it safe could prevent it from being lost or stolen by other greedy friends and family members.

Post-lottery life

While people believed Marie was going to stay grounded and use her money wisely, in the end, she acted somewhat recklessly and made some poor decisions. However, throughout the process she always kept her kids’ interest at the top of her priorities. She might be drained emotionally and financially, but Marie made a smart decision when she sought help with Iyanla. She might be living in this great, expensive house, but Marie still has some mixed emotions to deal with.

A lot of drama

Marie’s troubles didn’t stop with this peculiar lawsuit and it seemed like trouble just kept coming her way. While Marie was wise enough to invest nearly $10 million to create the Marie Holmes Foundation, there were times she didn’t know how to use her money wisely. As it turns out, Marie was still seeing her youngest daughter’s father, Lamarr McDow, who kept going in and out of jail. Marie had spent an unimaginable amount to bail her drug-dealer beau out.

Bailed him out three times

McDow, who is also nicknamed ‘hot sauce’ and the father of Ebony, Marie’s youngest child, was first arrested for drug trafficking charges. The second time he was arrested was for breaking his trial conditions and the third time for being involved in a street race. Not only did Marie spend $21 million to bail McDow out, but she bought him expensive gifts like a $15,000 Rolex watch, expensive jewelry, and a brand new car.

Buying more than his freedom

When he was first interviewed, Lamarr defended his millionaire girlfriend saying that she just wanted to stand by her man: ‘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…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.’

Is he a gold digger?

Lamarr also responded to the accusations regarding his relationship with Marie only because of her new found wealth, saying “We were together for two years before she won the Powerball”. He also added that he supported her while she was living in a mobile home with her mother and her four children. Mcdow even said that Marie confessed about her ambivalent felling towards her winning, saying: “When money comes, there are more problems.”

He was unfaithful

And if that was not enough for her, troubles just kept on coming for Marie Holmes. Allegedly, a woman named Lorna Marlowe exposed herself as one of LaMarr McDow’s girlfriends, saying that he was not faithful to Holmes during their relationship. According to various recordings that have surfaced online, Holmes began threatening Marlowe on the phone and even offered her money so that she would stop see him.

Bitter sweet

Marie’s boyfriend, Lamarr, is about to face some serious jail time, which is emotionally hard on Marie as her own father was in jail as well. Thankful for everything she’s received, Marie is sad about the fact that her boyfriend will be away for a long time. ”You’re not going to be here with me and the kids..I don’t want to do it without you, but I will do it.” What a learning journey it has been for Marie, who just wanted to have some peace and quiet for the first time in her life.

What will happen next?

While it was revealed that Lamarr was sent away again to prison for seven years due to his criminal behavior, Marie changed her mind and she is still waiting for him to be released. She said that while they plan to get married when he will be out of prison. it is still unknown if her children will return back to her full custody as Lamarr had three children of his own from previous relationship. We hope that Marie will finally be able to reunite her family.

They lose their joy

Some experts revealed that earning this amount of money would make it much harder for the winner to enjoy their life: “Eventually, the thrill of winning the lottery will itself wear off. If all things are judged by the extent to which they depart from a baseline of past experience, gradually even the most positive events will cease to have impact as they themselves are absorbed into the new baseline against which further events are judged. Thus, as lottery winners become accustomed to the additional pleasures made possible by their new wealth, these pleasures should be experienced as less intense and should no longer contribute very much to their general level of happiness.”

Psychological aspects

The subject of lottery has been studied by many psychologists since it began. Several studies have shown that people essentially buy lottery tickets because it is difficult for them to understand that their odds of winning are remotely zero. However, our mind is tricking us as it keeps giving us reasons to think that we actually have a chance of winning. This is why the lottery is so successful, especially amongst people with lower income who seek to escape their financial difficulties.

Rumors about the real owner

Some rumors began circulating in the area regarding the real owner of the winning ticket. Remember that we explained about having to sign the back of the lottery ticket in order to prove it’s yours? Allegedly, several family members of Marie Holmes claim that the winning ticket was actually belonged to her 90-year old grandmother. Marie’s cousins claimed that she took her grandmother’s ticket and signed the back with her own name, thus making herself the winner.

All in the family

In addition, one of Marie’s cousins have published a YouTube video, in which she claims that Holmes allegedly had an affair with a husband of one of their cousins. During the video, Marie’s cousin said that after her left her for another cousin of theirs, Marie offered to buy her a car so that she would stop seeing him. According to her words, it seems that their family has its share of trouble over the years.

Struggling mom

It’s safe to say that Marie Holmes’ life has been far from lucky. She was a single mom of four children who was working multiple jobs both at McDonald’s and at Walmart to support her kids. Brayden, Charisma, Andrea and Ebony aged from two years to 10 years old, and unluckily, Brayden suffers from cerebral palsy. It was never about Marie, she even decided not to get a higher education just so she could work instead.


Marie was a single mom in every sense of the word. Her children are a product of two different men, with whom she has very little contact with. The eldest three children’s father was Marie’s high school sweetheart who doesn’t even live in the same city with his children. Her youngest daughter is believed to be from a man from Shallotte, but he is also not in contact with the Marie or her daughter.

Losing their money

According to various studies that were conducted throughout the last several years, nearly a third of all lottery winners eventually declare bankruptcy. Due to this fact, lotto winners’ conditions are even worse than before they were rich. Other research shows that most of the winners often estrange themselves from their close friends and family and suffer from severe depression which can result in substance abuse and domestic problems.

All the money in the world

So many people believe that if they had a certain amount of money, they’d be able to live a certain way,” Iyanla says. “Marie is a prime example that if you don’t know who you are, if you don’t have a strong sense of identity and well-being, all the money in the world is not going to fix how you see yourself and how you live.’ Marie was very open while filming and exposed her true self on camera along with all of her family’s personal issues.

Relationship with her mother

One of the main problems that was discussed on the show was Marie’s troubled relationship with her mother, Fontella. Marie revealed that she had a hard time growing up with her, as Fontella often treated her and her other siblings very badly. Iyanla then finds out that despite all of that, Marie had chosen to send her children to live with her mother in Seattle, Washington after winning the lottery.

Lottery is a sin

Many believe that according to the christian doctrine, lottery should be considered as a sin. “For a Christian to have the remotest chance of winning the lottery, he has to initially buy a lottery ticket with the Lord’s money,” one of them said. “In all likelihood he is in reality just throwing the Lord’s money out the window. Therefore, in his participation he has stolen missions money and sinned.”

Fix her life

Relationship expert, television personality and author, Iyanla Vanzant, knew she needed to help Marie emotionally when she heard about Marie’s story and her poor decision making. Vanzant who has her own reality show, Fix My Life, was there to support Marie during her transition of going from poor to rich. She believed it was a problem of a lack of self-respect maturity and dignity that led Marie to make the decisions that she did.

Find yourself an advisor

Based on countless cases over the years, every lottery winner should be aware that once they discover that they are in possession of a winning ticket, they should immediately consult with a financial advisor and an attorney. The advisor will serve as a buffer between you and the stress that this amount of money can cause. Unfortunately, most people will tell their partner, best friend, or a parent first.