The family of Don Lewis, a man who vanished in 1997 and became a controversial topic on the Netflix “Tiger King” series, has hired an attorney to help find out more about his mysterious disappearance.
Attorney John Phillips announced Monday, during a press conference at the Riverhills Church of God in Tampa, that a $100,000 is being offered in an attempt to find out what happened to Lewis.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Carole Baskin, the owner of Big Cat Rescue and the centerpiece of “Tiger King,” claims she has no idea where her estranged husband, Lewis, is. She claimed he disappeared one day and never returned. In 2002, Lewis was legally declared deceased, although his body has never been located.
At the time of his disappearance, Lewis owned a home and a 200-acre park in Costa Rica. No one had seen him in Costa Rica for at least six months before he vanished and no one saw him thereafter he disappeared.
Lewis disappeared after he went to the Pilot Country Airport in Springhill, Florida, on August 18, 1997. Police found his keys, briefcase, and luggage left behind in his white 1989 Dodge van, parked at the airport.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister previously told CrimeOnline said there is no money trail and Lewis’ two passports to Costa Rica were not flagged. The case remains unsolved.
“Resolving this case is in everyone’s best interest,” Phillips said during Monday’s press conference.
Phillips is also asking Baskin to come forward and talk about the case. Last week, the legal team for Lewis’ family filed a lawsuit against Baskin in an attempt to depose her, MSN reports.
“After meeting with the family, justice to them is primarily defined by answers to what happened to Lewis, but also includes a full and open criminal investigation and the taking of statements under oath and subpoenas,” Phillips said.
News Channel 8 reports that Baskin previously responded to the family via email and implied that the press conference was a “publicity stunt.”
“I believe it is a publicity stunt orchestrated by [family spokesperson] Jack Smith to bolster his YouTube views but do hope that all of the attention from Tiger King and the aftermath will result in us finding Don.”
Smith, however, said that there are “a lot of people out there that have information but they’re scared to come forward,” possibly in fear of losing their exotic animals.
Four of these new billboards offering a $100,000 reward from the family of Don Lewis are displayed around #Tampa ahead of a press conference Monday. This one is located down the road from the entrance to the Big Cat Rescue. https://t.co/sPk3IxirSp #TigerKing @WFLA pic.twitter.com/W8YrO7WlVv
— Justin Schecker (@WFLAJustin) August 8, 2020
“You’re looking at a criminal defense attorney over here who’s ready to make someone a deal if you have information,” Smith added.
The reward fund, according to Lewis’ daughter, Donna Pettis, was provided by an anonymous donor who guaranteed the money to whoever comes forward with valid information.
“We worked for weeks in raising this money,” Pettis said. “An anonymous donor came forward guaranteeing the $100,000. We’re hoping that with these funds someone will have the courage to come forward and provide the information to solve this case.”
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Don Lewis tip line at (646) 450-6530.
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[Feature Photo: Joe Exotic/AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File]