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‘Tiger King’ Brings New Interest To Hillsborough Cold Case

Don Lewis cold case poster
Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister hopes a popular Netflix series will help solve the disappearance of Don Lewis.

Lewis’ story is featured in Tiger King, a limited-run series that delves into the cutthroat world of exotic animal rescue.

Lewis co-founded Big Cat Rescue with wife Carole. He disappeared in August 1997. The only trace of him found was his van, parked at a private airport in Pasco County.

Investigators suspected he fled to Costa Rica, where he owned a wilderness park, but searches in that country turned up nothing. Lewis was declared dead in 2002.

Chronister says the show is bringing new interest to the case, and he’s assigned a detective to sort through new leads.

“Maybe someone has had a change of heart,” he said. “Maybe a relationship status has changed. Anything that will prompt someone to call with a legitimate lead a piece of evidence.” Chronister says none of the leads so far have been credible, but he hopes that changes as more people watch the show.  

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.
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