Oct 5, 2005, 9:31 am
Seven years ago, Gerald Muswagon was all smiles as his troubled life took a fairy-tale turn when he won a $10 million lottery jackpot.
On Sunday, Mr. Muswagon hanged himself in his parent's garage.
It was a shocking end for a man who appeared to have the world at his fingertips, yet clearly never could grasp the instant fame and fortune he was handed through his lucky $2 Super 7 ticket.
"People are very upset, and this is all very surprising," said his cousin, Mike Muswagon. "But he had been very depressed lately, although he kept that part of him well hidden."
Mr. Muswagon, 42, somehow managed to do what seemed unthinkable and spent nearly every penny of his winnings in only a few years.
The former resident of Norway House in northern Manitoba was forced to take a job this summer doing heavy lifting on a friend's farm just to make ends meet while supporting his girlfriend and six young children in their modest Winnipeg home.
"I really wanted him to be set up for life, so he never had to work another day," said his cousin. "He should have been able to do that. But he made some very bad decisions."
Mr. Muswagon's spending habits were the stuff of local legend, as rumours began to spread throughout Winnipeg shortly after he won.
Most of them were true. He bought several new vehicles for himself and friends, purchased a house that turned into a nightly "party pad" and often celebrated his new lifestyle with copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. In a single day, he bought eight big-screen televisions for friends.
"He didn't have the right people around him at the time, people who could have guided him," recalled his cousin. "A lot of people asked a lot of him."
Mr. Muswagon tried starting up his own business only to watch it flop. The company, called Gerald's Logging, was cutting lumber in the Norway House area but was bleeding money because of low sales.
There were other bad decisions, including the October 2000 night in which he led police on a lengthy chase while driving his brand new Chevy Silverado at speeds reaching 180 km/h. He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and was sentenced to three months in jail.
He continued his criminal ways in November of 2002 when he repeatedly fondled a 19-year-old woman he had asked to help tidy his house while he mourned the sudden death of his wife, Virginia, only weeks earlier.
This past summer, he pleaded guilty to sexual assault and was given three months in jail, which he was allowed to serve intermittently on weekends so he could continue working during the week.
Mr. Muswagon's criminal record dated back to 1981 and included seven other convictions for crimes including assault causing bodily harm, drunk driving, theft and break and enter.
"Unfortunately, he had a very difficult time adjusting, coming from Norway House with very little education," said Tim Valgardson, Mr. Muswagon's lawyer.