A promise made to her brother
Her March 11 began as every one of them has since her brother’s death three years ago.
C.D. “Kaya” Lewis stood on the side of Jamboree Road in Newport Beach, ready for her 12-hour vigil, donning black — jacket, jeans and all — a string of pearls and tennis shoes.
She then faithfully held a white posterboard with the phrase “When you drink, don’t drive.” It’s been her mantra since her brother, Charles “Mask” Lewis, co-founder of TapouT clothing and a major player in the mixed martial arts world, was killed.
Charles Lewis, a Huntington Beach resident, and Costa Mesa resident Jeffrey David Kirby were driving southbound on Jamboree, north of Eastbluff Drive, in 2009 when Kirby, whose blood-alcohol level was above .13, lost control of his 1977 Porsche and hit Charles Lewis’ red 2004 Ferrari, according to Daily Pilot archives. The Ferrari sheared in half after slamming into a light pole.
Charles Lewis’ girlfriend, Lacy White, was ejected from the car and broke her elbow.
In December 2010, Kirby was sentenced to nine years in prison for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, causing gross bodily injury and having a previous drunk-driving conviction, according to Pilot archives.
Lewis remembered her brother less for his larger-than-life onstage persona and more for his boisterous personality at home. She described him as a man who “never knew a stranger.”
Lewis is battling TapouT and its co-founders in court because, according to her lawsuit, the men desecrated her brother’s remains by putting his ashes in vials, then distributing them as keepsakes to select friends at a ceremony at the Crystal Cathedral. This act, she contends, violated the family’s faith.
But an attorney for MMA Holdings, which owns TapouT, said his clients had permission to distribute about 15 vials, crafted by David Yurman and imprinted with the name “Mask.”
There were certain keepsake vials given by TapouT co-founder Timothy Katz, aka Skrape, and co-founder Dan Caldwell “based upon what we believe was an understanding between the parties,” said attorney Ronald Jason Palmieri.
Lewis said she, her half-brother and son met Katz and Caldwell at the TapouT headquarters in Grand Terrace, where the two men asked to have executive power over Charles Lewis’ remains.
Lewis “flatly refused to sign any of the documents” that would give such power, according to her lawsuit. Instead, she says she allowed them to borrow the remains for the memorial that April.
But upon arriving at the ceremony in Garden Grove, Lewis’ lawsuit claims, she saw about 50 to 100 vials containing her brother’s remains being distributed at a booth from within a shoe box-sized container.
Furthermore, she was not on the list of people who were being given the mementos.
After the ceremony, Lewis says in her lawsuit that members of the company “repeatedly and wrongfully refused to return the urn and remaining cremated remains.”
But Palmieri said family members repeatedly visited the TapouT offices and saw the urn, without presenting any demands to return the remains. Ultimately, they went unclaimed, he said.
The first time his clients knew that Lewis wanted the remains was just before the lawsuit was filed, he said.
The urn has since been given to Charles Lewis’ adult son, according to Palmieri.
At one point, Palmieri said Lewis was seeking $2 million in damages. Court records show she is seeking $25,000 or more in the civil lawsuit. The next court hearing is set for May 11, according to court records.
On March 11, TapouT Films released the trailer for its forthcoming documentary, according to MMA news websites.
Among the images in the documentary are shots of the Newport crash scene adorned with T-shirts, candles and black skid marks that draw a direct line to the area where Charles Lewis was killed.
Last weekend, the only remaining reminder of the crash was Kaya Lewis.
“I’ll probably be an old lady in a wheelchair here, holding signs,” she said, “because that was the promise I made to my brother when I anointed his body before he was cremated.”