Don Lewis, Carole Baskin’s ex-husband, has been missing since 1997. According to Florida detectives, the Tiger King star has refused to discuss his disappearance despite multiple requests for interviews.
Corporal Moises Garcia, a detective from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, Fl., told reporters during a news conference that Carole Baskin has refused to cooperate with investigators three times.
On the fifth anniversary of his death, in 2002, Don Lewis was declared legally dead, but authorities have never figured out what happened. After the Netflix documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness renewed interest in his story during the pandemic, the case was reopened in March 2020.
A Tampa, Fl. millionaire who started the Wildlife on Easy Street sanctuary, Don Lewis and his wife at the time, Carole Baskin, took care of several big cats. In the Tiger King Netflix series, the couple had a feud with convicted felon Joe Exotic, another big cat zoo owner in Oklahoma. The sanctuary has since been renamed the Big Cat Rescue Corporation.
Don Lewis vanished on the morning of August 18, 1997, which authorities believe could not have been a decision he made on his own. Evidence has yet to surface alluding to a murder, but his mysterious disappearance has left viewers and investigators with many lasting questions.
On the Tiger King series many accusations were thrown out, including his murder at the bottom of a septic tank, and that he was living peacefully in Costa Rica away from the big cat drama. Don Lewis also allegedly left $5 million in assets behind.
During the press conference, Detective Garcia said they have conducted over 50 interviews and followed up on nearly 200 leads since starting their investigation. He is still confident that the case will be solved however, telling reporters that, “If you ask a homicide detective if he can solve a case, and he says no, you should take away his badge.”
He refused to comment on the theory that he is hiding in Costa Rica, but did state that federal agents had checked out leads in Central America already.
The detective has been unable to get a warrant to search the Big Cat Rescue septic tank, however, since securing the warrant would mean that they had probable cause that he was buried there.
Kenny Farr, a former handyman at the big cat sanctuary, may have provided investigators with some evidence to evaluate the claim, but he has also refused to speak with authorities. Carole Baskin also remains a person of interest in the case.
Recently, Baskin sued Netflix in an attempt to stop a sequel of the Tiger King documentary series from airing, claiming that they do not have the rights to certain interviews and footage used in the show.
Netflix argued back that she had already signed over the rights to the footage in making the first series, and that she could not change her mind. The streaming company also cited that she was attempting to block their First Amendment rights.
Appearing on British television’s This Morning, Carole Baskin said that she thought any theory claiming that Don Lewis was still alive was “impossible.”
“I didn’t think that he was capable of supporting himself,” she said. “He took about $1 million down to Costa Rica and I had agreed to let him do that so that he could prove to himself that he couldn’t make a living. So I don’t know how it is that Homeland Security says he’s alive and well in Costa Rica, but I’m glad to hear it.”
Joe Exotic, the couple’s big cat rival, accused Carole Baskin of being involved in her husband’s disappearance in the Tiger King series, which the documentary personality has vehemently denied.