The family of Carole Baskin’s long-missing husband has reopened his case.
Relatives of Don Lewis hired a lawyer and are offering $100,000 in exchange for information to solve Lewis' disappearance, the Associated Press reports. Lewis, who vanished in 1997, was declared legally dead in 2002. His case became a point of contention in Netflix’s hit series Tiger King. Lewis went missing a day before a trip to Costa Rica. He and Baskin started the Tampa-based animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue Corp. together.
During a news conference in Tampa, Florida on Monday, attorney John Phillips announced the launch of an independent investigation into Lewis’ disappearance. He revealed that Lewis’ family has filed a lawsuit against Baskin—Lewis’ second wife—as a way to depose her and make her speak on the record. Phillips and the family have also put up three Tampa-area billboards, imploring the public for information.
Three of Lewis’ daughters were present at the news conference. His youngest, Gale Rathbone, thanked those who have shown interest in the case. “Amazingly, our little family tragedy has become your tragedy. Our search for closure and truth has become your mission also,” she said. “We all know by now that [Lewis] was not a perfect man. But do only the perfect among us deserve justice?”
Baskin told the AP in an email that she couldn’t comment on an ongoing case. “It’s been my policy not to discuss pending litigation until it’s been resolved," she wrote. “I had told some news outlets that I thought the press conference on Aug. 10 was just a publicity stunt, but at that time was not aware there would be pending litigation.”
Earlier this year, Tiger King’s main subject Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his part in a murder-for-hire plot. He was convicted of attempting to pay someone to kill Baskin, who tried to shutter his Oklahoma zoo for abusing animals and selling big cat cubs. With Exotic in prison, a judge has awarded control of his former zoo to Baskin.
Lewis’ case came to the forefront when Exotic repeatedly accused Baskin of killing her husband and possibly feeding his body to her tigers. Baskin has frequently denied these allegations.