The family of Carole Baskin’s legally dead husband, Don Lewis, have come forward to refute claims that he may still be alive and living in Costa Rica. The statements come after a televised interview that Baskin gave to Good Morning, Britain in November 2021 resurfaced in which she said that during the filming of the second season of Tiger King, she learned of the sighting of Don Lewis in Central America.
Don Lewis was last seen in August 1997. At the time of his disappearance, he had filed a restraining order against Baskin and told police that his wife had told him that she was going to kill him. He was declared legally dead in 2002.
In a statement to DailyMail.com, Lewis’ family members said that Baskin’s 2021 claims are ‘simply not true’ and that she is merely creating ‘a false narrative.’ Baskin has always denied any role in Lewis’ disappearance.
Jack Smith, a spokesperson for the Lewis family, told DailyMail.com that the document that Baskin used to back up her claim in the second season of Tiger King is from 1997, not post-2002, as she alleged. The statement said that Baskin was using the document ‘to fill a different narrative as to what happened to our father. Our father is still listed as a missing person on the National Missing and Unidentified Persons database.’
The press release continued: ‘The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department is still actively working on our dad’s case, and we are in constant communication with them as they continue to move forward with our dad’s case.’
Smith said that the document seen in season two regarding the sighting was created by US Customs in September 1997. Baskin said that as the heading on the document reads Department of Homeland Security, which was not established until 2002. However, the details from the report are identical to details described by the Tampa Bay Times in a September 1997 article. Baskin is quoted in the piece as saying: ‘I really don’t know what to think [about the sighting.’ She continued: ‘If this is true, I’m really, really glad he’s not in jail somewhere.’
Smith also stated that in November 1997, Don Lewis’ eldest daughter, Donna, traveled to Central America to follow up on the sighting. He said that she and her husband went to the various properties he owned across Costa Rica and spoke to multiple local residents but had no success in locating Lewis.
Smith continued: ‘They later learned that the informant had recanted his statement about seeing Don Lewis, and also learned that his main car of use in Costa Rica, his Toyota Land Cruiser, had been sold within four days of his missing persons report being filed.’ He added: ‘The signature on the paperwork of his Land Cruiser didn’t match his signature, according to Mark Songer, a handwriting expert.’
The claim that Lewis is ‘alive and well in Costa Rica’ had earlier been called into question by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which remains in charge of the hunt for Lewis and still has an open missing persons case for him. A spokesperson for the office said that they had not heard anything about Lewis’ whereabouts, despite Baskin’s claim that a Department of Homeland Security official had been in touch with her ex and subsequently informed the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s public information office, Fentress Fountain, said: ‘We have not received any communication from our federal partners that confirms the location of missing person Mr. Don Lewis.’
While the case of Don Lewis’ disappearance remains unsolved, it is important to note that the accusations made against Carole Baskin are merely allegations and she has consistently denied any involvement in his disappearance. It is also important to note that the information provided by the Lewis family and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is based on the information they had in 1997 and 2002. The investigation remains open and active, and any new leads or information may lead to new developments in the case.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is a Netflix docuseries that first premiered in March 2020. The show quickly became a global phenomenon, captivating audiences with its bizarre and often unbelievable story of big cat breeding, ownership and the eccentric personalities involved in this controversial industry. The show follows the life of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, a former owner of a big cat park in Oklahoma, and his interactions with his arch-nemesis, Carole Baskin, the founder of a big cat sanctuary in Tampa, Florida.
The series paints a picture of a seedy underbelly of the big cat breeding industry, filled with eccentric characters, illegal activity, and even murder-for-hire plots. Joe Exotic is at the center of it all, with his larger-than-life personality, multiple marriages and his park filled with tigers, lions, and other big cats. The show also explores the rivalry between Joe and Carole, with accusations of animal abuse, mistreatment and even murder.
One of the main storylines in the show centers around the mysterious disappearance of Carole Baskin’s second husband, Don Lewis. While Baskin has always maintained her innocence, many theories circulate about her potential involvement in his disappearance. Don Lewis, a millionaire businessman, and Baskin were married in 1991 and ran a big cat sanctuary together in Tampa, Florida. However, their marriage was marred by allegations of abuse and infidelity on Lewis’s part. In 1997, Lewis disappeared without a trace, and despite extensive police investigations, his whereabouts remains unknown.
The show also delves into the legal battles that Joe Exotic faced. Joe was eventually arrested and convicted on charges of animal abuse and a murder-for-hire plot against Carole Baskin. He is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence. The show also highlights the dangers of the big cat breeding industry and the lack of regulation and oversight in this industry.
The show is not without its critics. Many animal rights activists and organizations have criticized the show for glamorizing the ownership of big cats and for not highlighting the cruelty and mistreatment of these animals in captivity. The American Humane Association released a statement condemning the show, stating that it “glorifies and sensationalizes the abuse of big cats and other animals” and that it “does nothing to advance the cause of animal welfare.”
Despite the controversies and criticism, Tiger King captured the imagination of audiences around the world, and it has become one of the most-watched shows on Netflix. It has led to numerous spin-offs, including a follow-up series, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness: The Lost Footage” and a scripted series, “Joe Exotic,” starring Nicolas Cage.