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Tiger King Zookeeper Found Dead in NYC

Erik Cowie was 53
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2021 4:38 PM CDT

(Newser) – A zookeeper who appeared in Tiger King—and later testified against Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic—was found dead in a New York City apartment Friday, officials say. Sources tell TMZ that 53-year-old Erik Cowie was found unresponsive in the residence's bedroom and while no drugs were found at the scene, toxicology tests will probably be conducted. The sources say the death does not appear to be suspicious. The New York Police Department said the cause of death will be confirmed by the medical examiner, People reports. According to TMZ, an arrest warrant was issued for Cowie earlier this year after he failed to show up in court after a DUI arrest in Oklahoma.

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Cowie, a longtime animal caretaker at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, testified that Maldonado-Passage had killed older tigers at the zoo to make room for younger ones, NBC New York reports. In a Tiger King reunion special last year, Cowie said his former boss, who was convicted of crimes including attempted murder-for-hire and animal abuse, deserved to rot in jail. "He's going to die in there," Cowie said. "So good riddance." (In July, Maldonado-Passage's 22-year sentence was overturned by a federal appeals court, but his convictions were upheld and he will remain in prison during the resentencing process.)

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