ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The family of a Florida man who went missing in 1997 and appeared in the hit drama “Tiger King” hired a lawyer and offered $ 100,000 in exchange for information helping solve the case. .
Attorney John Phillips held a press conference in Tampa on Monday and announced an independent investigation into Don Lewis’s disappearance. He also said that on behalf of the Lewis family, he filed a lawsuit against Lewis’s second wife, Carole Baskin, to take her down and get her to speak up in the filing. He and his family also paid for billboards in the Tampa area asking for information in the case.
Lewis disappeared the day before his planned trip to Costa Rica and was never found. He was declared legally dead in 2002. He and Baskin started to set up an animal sanctuary, which would later become Big Cat Rescue Corp. in Tampa, Florida.
Lewis̵7;s three daughters were present at the press conference. Lewis’s youngest daughter, Gale Rathbone, expressed gratitude to those interested in the case.
“Amazingly, our little family tragedy has become your tragedy. Our search ends and truth becomes your mission, ”she said. “We all know now that (Lewis) is not a perfect man. But are only the perfect of us worthy of justice? “
In an email sent to the Associated Press on Monday, Baskin said she would not comment. “It is my policy not to discuss pending lawsuits until it is resolved,” she wrote. “I told a number of agencies that I thought the August 10 press conference was just a public stunt, but at the time it was not known that there would be a lawsuit pending.”
The Lewis case, and Baskin, were introduced in “Tiger King.” Baskin remains the owner of Big Cat Rescue, and lobbied for private wildlife ownership removal.
“Tiger King” is a documentary series about Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic”, an eccentric former Oklahoma zoo worker who loves big cats.
Earlier this year, Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a tenant murder plot. He was found guilty of trying to hire the killer Baskin, who tried to shut him down, accusing the Oklahoma Zoo of animal abuse and selling large kittens.
In retaliation, Maldonado-Passage raised a question about Baskin’s ex-husband, Jack “Don” Lewis. The documentary covers several times about repeated allegations of Maldonado-Passage that Baskin killed her husband and possibly fed the tiger to him. Baskin has not been charged with any crime and has repeatedly made statements disproving the allegations made in the series.
Maldonaldo-Passage is in prison. In June, a federal judge gave control of the Oklahoma Zoo that was previously run by Maldonado-Passage – also known as Joe Exotic – to Big Cat Rescue Corp.
Baskin previously sued Maldonado-Passage for trademark and copyright infringement and won a $ 1 million civil judgment against him. The judge discovered that ownership of the zoo had been falsely transferred to Maldonado-Passage’s mother in an attempt to avoid the bid.
In March, the Hillsborough County sheriff asked for a tip in Lewis’s case and announced the reopening of Lewis’s case.