ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – The family of a Florida man who disappeared in 1997 and appeared on the hit TV series “Tiger King” has hired a lawyer and is offering US $ 100,000 in exchange for information to help resolve the case.
Attorney John Phillips held a press conference in Tampa on Monday announcing an independent investigation into the disappearance of Don Lewis. He also said that on behalf of the Lewis family, he filed a lawsuit against Lewis’ second wife, Carole Baskin, to depose her and get her to speak on the file. He and the family have also paid for billboards in the Tampa area asking for information on the case.
Lewis disappeared the day before a planned trip to Costa Rica and was never found. He was declared legally dead in 2002. He and Baskin founded the shelter, which later became the Big Cat Rescue Corp. in Tampa, Florida.
Three of Lewis̵
“Amazingly, our little family tragedy has become yours. Our search for closure and truth has become your mission too, ”she said. “We all know by now that (Lewis) wasn’t a perfect man. But only the perfect among us deserve justice? “
In an email to the Associated Press on Monday, Baskin said she would not comment. “It was my policy not to discuss any pending litigation until it was resolved,” she wrote. “I had told some news outlets that I thought the press conference on August 10th was just a publicity stunt, but at the time I was unaware that a lawsuit was pending.”
Lewis’ case and Baskin were featured in “Tiger King”. Baskin still owns Big Cat Rescue and is committed to the end of private game ownership.
“Tiger King” was a documentary series about Joseph Maldonado Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” an eccentric former Oklahoma zookeeper who loves big cats.
Earlier this year, Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a rental murder plot. He was convicted of trying to hire someone to kill Baskin. He tried to shut it down, accusing the Oklahoma Zoo of abusing animals and selling large kittens.
In retaliation, Maldonado-Passage asked questions about Baskin’s ex-husband Jack “Don” Lewis. The documentary elaborated on Maldonado-Passage’s repeated allegations that Baskin killed her husband and possibly fed him to their tigers. Baskin has not been charged with any crime and has repeatedly issued statements refuting the allegations made in the series.
Maldonaldo Passage is in jail. A federal judge gave Big Cat Rescue Corp. took control of the Oklahoma Zoo, previously operated by Maldonado Passage – also known as Joe Exotic.
Baskin previously sued Maldonado-Passage for trademark and copyright infringement and won a $ 1 million civil sentence against him. The judge found that ownership of the zoo had been fraudulently transferred to the mother of Maldonado-Passage in order to avoid paying the verdict.
In March, the Hillsborough County Sheriff sought advice on the Lewis case and announced that Lewis’s case would be reopened.