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Missing millionaire may be in Costa Rica

Published Oct. 2, 2005

A millionaire who disappeared a month ago may be in Costa Rica, according to unconfirmed reports received by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators searching for 59-year-old Jack Donald Lewis have received information that the Citrus Park resident has been seen in the Central American country where he owns 200 acres and frequently traveled. Officials have not spoken with Lewis and still consider him a missing person.

A month ago, Lewis' battered Dodge van was found at a private airport in Pasco County, the keys still on the floorboard. Since then, friends and family members have distributed hundreds of missing persons posters in an effort to find Lewis, who, with his wife Carole, runs Citrus Park's Wildlife on Easy Street, a sanctuary for dozens of exotic cats.

Carole Lewis said she received the news from deputies Wednesday morning, but few details.

"I really don't know what to think," Mrs. Lewis said. "If this is true, I'm really, really glad he's not in jail somewhere."

Hillsborough sheriff's Capt. Robert Shrader declined to say whether police in Costa Rica or someone else spotted Lewis. He said he feels confident detectives will close the case soon.

Even if police in Costa Rica find Lewis, authorities cannot bring him back to the United States, Shrader said. Sheriff's investigators are not looking for him as a suspect in a crime. They just want to find a missing person.

Lewis' friends expressed tentative relief at the news of a possible sighting.

"I hope that it's true," said Elizabeth Ann McQueen, a longtime assistant who worked for Lewis' real estate and trucking businesses.

Gladys Lewis Cross, his first wife of 34 years, said she was excited but confused. She wondered what circumstances led him to leave if he did go to Costa Rica willingly.

"It was just good to hear this. I didn't have a lot of hope," she said. "I think something must be terribly wrong here for him to do that."