Lawsuit filed against ‘Tiger King’ star Carole Baskin over millionaire husband’s disappearance

Reward offered for information about what happened to Don Lewis

The disappearance of Carole Baskin's late husband, Jack "Don" Lewis, is a central point in Netflix's "Tiger King." (Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office)

TAMPA, Fla. – There’s a new chapter for the “Tiger King” saga.

Jacksonville-based attorney John Phillips announced he is representing the family of Don Lewis. Lewis is the missing millionaire who was married to Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin, News 6 partner WJXT reports.

In a news conference from Tampa on Monday morning, Phillips said that his firm filed a pure bill of discovery last Friday against Baskin.

There is a $100,000 reward being offered in the case. Lewis went missing without a trace in 1997. Several years later he was legally declared dead. A Don Lewis Facebook group, which has 3,300 members, has provided a trove of information that Phillips said has been very helpful in material on the case.

“Resolving this case is in everyone’s best interest. It’s in Carole Baskin’s best interest. If she cares about Don Lewis, and I want to believe you can’t be married to somebody without caring about them. I’ve seen that happen,” Phillips said.

“I invite her to the table. I invite her to talk and let us know what really happened. More than invite her, we’re going to serve her with a lawsuit. Now, it’s not a lawsuit for damages, it’s a lawsuit for equity. Equity means fairness. It also allows subpoenas and depositions, request for production and interrogatories. Things that a court can decide what happened and what lawsuits or lawsuit, and who should be sued should come.”

Phillips said his firm is launching an independent investigation into Lewis’ disappearance. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister had already reopened the law enforcement investigation a few weeks after the Tiger King series debuted on Netflix.

Don Lewis's disappearance remains an open case. (Credit: Tiger King)

Attorney Kaitlyn Statile of Carlson, Meissner, Hart and Hayslett said that her firm would represent anyone coming forward with information on the case pro bono.

Chronister said his office was flooded with tips and Chronister now says he believes Lewis was murdered. However, Chronister hasn’t named any suspects.

The Tiger King documentary extensively covers repeated accusations that Carole Baskin killed her then-husband and possibly fed him to her tigers. Gail Rathbone, one of Lewis’ daughters, said that the family hopes that they will finally get closure.

“For 23 years, I’ve gone to bed every night knowing that the only chance of seeing him again is in my dreams. For 23 years, I’ve woken every morning to the heartbreak of his strange disappearance,” she said. “But hopefully with all this help that we now have one day soon we and you, too, will know the truth and will all finally know happened to my dad.”

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