LOS ANGELES — The big news for KNBC worker Jacki Wells Cisneros broke right inside her own newsroom – she and her husband won the $266 million Mega Millions jackpot.
She told the Los Angeles TV station in an interview Wednesday night that she discovered during her usual routine on the assignment desk very early that morning that the winning ticket had been purchased at the Pico Rivera Hawaiian restaurant.
Cisneros quickly realized that that was where her newly unemployed husband Gilbert Cisneros had bought a lottery ticket.
A quick wakeup call to her husband, then a check of numbers was all it took to determine that they held the winning ticket.
"My hand was shaking the phone, I went to hang up the phone and I was shaking, and my legs felt like they were going to buckle," said Cisneros, who had remained anonymous for much of the day but led her station's 11 p.m. newscast with an interview. "I just cried, and laughed."
Gilbert Cisneros added: "Right now we're probably too tired for our feet to leave the ground."
Cisneros has worked as a freelancer for KNBC for about four years, and her husband was laid off two weeks ago, the newsroom's assignment manager David Reese said.
Reese said the newly minted millionaire called him Wednesday to share her good news and tell him she planned to come to work Thursday.
"She's usually the most pleasant and nice person to work with even when all hell is breaking loose," Reese said. "It renews your faith in the universe that something like this can happen to someone who really deserves it."
Colleague Nicole Stevenson said Cisneros kept asking her husband to repeat the numbers.
"She thought he was kidding, thought he was messing with her," Stevenson said.
Reese said he saw a photocopy of the ticket showing all six numbers drawn in Tuesday's multistate game – 9, 21, 31, 36 and 43 with 8 as the Mega number.
The winner has 60 days to tell lottery officials how he or she wants the money. It can be paid in 26 equal payments of $10.2 million or in a lump sum of about $165 million, minus federal taxes, said lottery spokeswoman Cathy Doyle Johnston.
On Tuesday night, Cisneros had wanted to order dinner from Kentucky Fried Chicken, but her husband insisted on going to the barbecue joint where he bought the tickets.
Because the winning ticket was sold at L & L Hawaiian BBQ in Pico Rivera, owner Danny He and his family will get $1 million, the cap on lottery bonuses in California, Johnston said.
He said the money will go toward his son's college education and to pay some debt.
Reese said the winner told him she plans on coming to work Thursday.
A few hours before her graveyard shift was set to begin, her colleagues were speculating on the air on whether she'd really come in to work as she'd claimed she would.
"She said she loves work and she doesn't want this to change her life that way. She says she needs the routine," Reese said.
The $266 million jackpot was the eighth-largest in the history of the game, which began in 2002 and is now played in 38 states and the District of Columbia.
The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever was $390 million on March 6, 2007, shared by winners in Dalton, Ga., and New Jersey.
Lottery officials said the odds of matching all six numbers drawn in Tuesday's multistate game is 1 in 175,711,536.
Associated Press writers Andrew Dalton and Raquel Maria Dillon contributed to this story.