Warning: This article contains spoilers for "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness"
Netflix's new binge-worthy documentary series, "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness," exposes the eccentric world of big cat breeding. But amid all the wild twists and turns, one question stood out: What happened to Carole Baskin's husband Jack Donald "Don" Lewis?
The seven-part show focuses on main character Joe Exotic, also known as Joseph Maldonado-Passage, the former owner of an Oklahoma zoo that housed lions, tigers and other big cats. Exotic's nemesis in the show is Carole Baskin, an outspoken animal rights activist who operates the animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue in Florida.
Eventually, Exotic participated in bungled murder-for-hire plots to kill Baskin, which resulted in his arrest and conviction for the plots, as well as wildlife violations. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison in January.
As the documentary shows, Baskin's second husband, millionaire Don Lewis, disappeared in August 1997. Lewis, who ran the sanctuary with Baskin, has not been heard from since.
A judge declared Lewis dead five years after his disappearance, but Hillsborough County, Florida, sheriff's deputies said they would keep the case open for the time being until it was known for sure, reported CBS affiliate WTSP in 2003.
Members of Lewis' family and his friends, said in the documentary they believe Baskin could have had something to do with the disappearance. Exotic stirred up the unsubstantiated theory, promoting the theory for years that Baskin allegedly murdered Lewis by feeding him to tigers.
Baskin has always denied having anything to do with Lewis' disappearance. Baskin has never been arrested or charged in relation to the disappearance. The lead homicide detective on the case, John Marsicano, said in the series that there is "absolutely no physical evidence at this point in time that would point at one particular individual."
The success of the series, which Netflix lists as their most popular show in the U.S. as of Monday, has not only stirred up questions about Lewis' disappearance in fans, but in law enforcement as well.
"Since @netflix and #Covid19 #Quarantine has made #TigerKing all the rage, I figured it was a good time to ask for new leads. #CaroleBaskin #DonLewis" said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister on Twitter on Monday morning.
Director of Public Relations for Big Cat Rescue, Susan Bass, told CBS News that they "hope the Sheriff's plea will lead to new information about what happened to Don Lewis."
Baskin and current husband Howard have vehemently disputed rumors circulating online, as well as the way Baskin is represented on the show, multiple times since the series dropped on the streaming platform earlier in March.
The show "has a segment devoted to suggesting, with lies and innuendos from people who are not credible, that I had a role in the disappearance of my husband Don in 1997," Baskin said in a blog entry posted on her rescue's website Sunday. "The series presents this without any regard for the truth or in most cases even giving me an opportunity before publication to rebut the absurd claims. They did not care about truth."
Baskin also alleged in the lengthy post that she was approached by the series' directors five years ago and told the series would focus on exposing "the misery caused by the rampant breeding of big cat cubs for cub petting exploitation and the awful life the cats lead in roadside zoos and back yards if they survive."
Howard also spoke out against the documentary in a video posted to YouTube and the rescue's Facebook page this weekend. "Anyone who spends an hour with Carole would come away knowing that there was no way she had any involvement in Don's disappearance," he said.
First published on March 30, 2020 / 9:34 PM
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