Woman who won $34.9 million injured in crash that kills her sister
LAS VEGAS – When cocktail waitress Cynthia Jay won a record $34.9 million jackpot in January, her concern was to take care of a family that included five sisters and three brothers.
In the weeks that followed she married boyfriend Terry Brennan and tried to deal with her sudden wealth, sometimes questioning the price of the fame that accompanied it. Jay-Brennan found herself unable to go out in public without being approached and even was harassed at home.
Then Saturday night, an alleged drunken driver in a sport utility vehicle slammed into her car at 45 miles per hour, killing her sister and critically injuring 37-year-old Jay-Brennan.
Police said Clark Morse, 57, a Las Vegas man with three previous drunken driving convictions, was later arrested on charges of driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident.
He fled the scene after his 1997 Ford Explorer slammed into the rear of Jay-Brennan’s 1999 Chevrolet Camaro. Her car was shoved into three other vehicles waiting at a red light.
Jay-Brennan’s sister, Lela Sue Jay, 45, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Jay-Brennan was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition. Her condition was upgraded to serious on Monday.
The jackpot winner had vowed her life wouldn’t change when she was presented a giant check Jan. 27.
”The people I had in my life last week are going to be the people in my life next week,” she said at a news conference after parlaying $27 into a world-record $34.9 million Megabucks slot machine jackpot at the Desert Inn hotel-casino.
”She was extremely close to her family,” Desert Inn spokeswoman Caroline Coyle said Monday. ”She was just so down-to-earth. She just wanted to provide for her family and make sure her family was taken care of.”
Ed Rogich, vice president of marketing for Megabucks founder International Game Technology, said Jay-Brennan was excited about what the money could mean for her family.
”She said they had all been working people, had worked very hard, and she looked forward to this jackpot making it easier on all of them,” Rogich recalled.
Connie Fox, an IGT spokeswoman, said Jay-Brennan later had mixed feelings.
”She looked at it that while the money made her feel secure, there was a price to be paid, not so much for the money but for the celebrity,” Fox said.
Fox said Jay-Brennan told her she found herself unable to go out in public without being approached by people, and was awakened in the middle of the night by a Missouri caller who had read about her in a tabloid.
”We all have our fantasies of how we would spend our money, but you know it’s really different when you face the reality,” Jay-Brennan told Fox.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police investigated the crash at a busy intersection on Boulder Highway, on the city’s southeast side.
Police Lt. John Thornton said the arrest of Morse was another case of problem drivers slipping through the system.
In 1998 Morse pleaded guilty to a third drunken driving charge and was to undergo two years of treatment for substance abuse, at which time he faced 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Thornton suggested more stringent sentencing for repeat offenders.
”Sometimes the courts can be too lenient if no one’s been hurt,” Thornton said. ”They look at it like no one has gotten hurt. The sad thing is that someone will eventually get hurt, or will die.”