Family of Carole Baskin's Missing Husband Offers $100,000 Reward for Information on His Whereabouts

For 23 years, authorities have been searching for Don Lewis, who vanished on August 18, 1997

Carole Baskin and Don Lewis
Don Lewis and Carole Baskin. Photo: Carole Lewis/Tampa Bay Times/ZUMA; MEGA

The family of Don Lewis is speaking out -- and offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of the 60-year-old millionaire and animal sanctuary owner who mysteriously vanished more than 20 years ago.

Lewis vanished on August 18, 1997. Deputies found his van abandoned at a nearby airport, where he had allegedly planned to take a trip to Costa Rica. Police found no signs of a struggle inside — nor did they find proof that Lewis ever left the country.

Investigators continue to look at the case, and have reinterviewed Lewis' then wife Carole Baskin, a big-cat activist and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, a non-profit animal sanctuary based near Tampa, Florida.

The case reentered the spotlight earlier this year after the release of Netflix’s seven-episode series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness about the long-running rivalry between Baskin and Joe Maldonado-Passage, aka “Joe Exotic,” the now-imprisoned big-cat enthusiast.

In the show, Exotic accused Baskin of being responsible for Lewis’ disappearance and feeding her husband to the tigers after murdering him. (Baskin has denied having anything to do with it.)

Since the show aired, an army of online true-crime enthusiasts have speculated about what could have happened to Lewis.

In June, the sheriff declared that the will of Don Lewis was forged. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister alleged to reporters that two different experts have deemed Lewis' will "100 percent a forgery," but that the statute of limitations for forgery had already expired.

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Tiger King
Carole Baskin. Netflix

In a press conference on Monday morning, Lewis' daughters and their team spoke out to announce a new $100,000 reward for information leading to answers in the case.

“There’s $100k sitting on the table. It’s set up for someone to come forward and say, 'here’s what I know. I want the hundred grand, and I want immunity, and I’ll tell you what happened,'" said Jack Smith, a family spokesperson.

Carole Baskin did not immediately return PEOPLE's call for comment, but reportedly spoke out to 8 On Your Side in an email. “I believe it is a publicity stunt orchestrated by Jack Smith to bolster his YouTube views," she wrote, "but I do hope that all of the attention from Tiger King and the aftermath will result in us finding Don.”

Lewis's youngest daughter, Gale Rathbone, told reporters on Monday that she just wants closure.

"We’re grateful for the outpouring of support we have received," she said. "Our family tragedy has become your tragedy. Our search for truth has become your mission, too."

"We’re asking that anyone with vital information come forward so that progress can be made on this case," Rathbone continued. "I still to this day miss my dad. I love my dad. For 23 years, I’ve gone to bed each night knowing that the only chance of seeing him again is in my dreams. I hope that someday we – and you too – will know the truth and know what will happen to him."

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