Was Carole Baskin’s Former Husband Don Lewis Found Alive in Costa Rica?
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The flower-crowned Big Cat Rescue owner has long been the target of macabre but unfounded rumors about the disappearance of Lewis.
The creator of Big Cat Rescue in Florida, Carole Baskin, gained questionable notoriety after appearing in the “Tiger King” Netflix series. Joe “Exotic” Maldonado, the character who gives the series its name, planned to murder Baskin for money. But ever since the show’s 2020 premiere, Carole Baskin has been falsely and widely charged of killing her ex-husband, who vanished in 1997.
The charges levelled against Baskin were ridiculous: Did she kill her wealthy husband Don Lewis, mash up his remains, and feed them to the lions, tigers, and other large beasts kept at her rescue facility in Tampa? Insisting that such charges against her are without merit, Baskin has claimed that she has never been formally accused of the crime.
News reports and social media posts that claimed there was evidence Lewis was still alive went viral in January 2023.
Below, we’ll outline what we know and don’t know.
The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and the release of “Tiger Kingfirst “‘s season, which aired in March and April of 2020, coincided with each other, which undoubtedly contributed to the show’s cultural phenomenon. People who were bored at home and in need of entertainment went to the show and its racy plot for solace.
The focus of the show’s first, highly regarded season was Maldonado’s imprisonment following his conviction on federal charges for conspiring to have Baskin killed. Maldonado, also known as the “Tiger King,” kept huge cats like tigers in his zoo. Maldonado developed an enmity towards Baskin after she accused him and other animal keepers of cruelty.
Maldonado acknowledged to killing five tigers by shooting them to death in order to create place for more, aside from the murder-for-hire scheme against Baskin. He was also charged with killing his horse and feeding it to his tigers after promising an elderly woman that he would take care of her ailing horse while she was out of sight, according to a former producer.
Despite his history of violence, viewers of the show expressed sympathy for him and called for his release from prison. In the meantime, the show portrayed Baskin negatively, and others claimed that she had murdered her absent husband.
In general, the show’s millions of viewers left believing that Lewis had vanished and has been missing ever since under strange circumstances, which many of them believed implicated Baskin in his slaying.
The following headline and subhead appeared in a story that was published in Cosmopolitan on January 18, 2023: “So, it appears that Carole Baskin’s supposedly deceased spouse has been discovered alive and well. We all missed it, too!”
This claim was based on what Baskin said in an interview for the British television show “This Morning” on November 18, 2021. “One of the really exciting things that came out of ‘Tiger King [season] 2’ is that they produced a letter from [the U.S. Department of] Homeland Security,” said Baskin in the interview. “It says that a special agent in charge with the FBI at Homeland Security reached out to the sheriff’s detective Jorge Fernandez… and they said that my husband Don Lewis is alive and well in Costa Rica.”
A screenshot of the letter that supposedly received from DHS was released on the celebrity news and gossip website TMZ. Although it’s hazy, you can make out the words “Don Lewis is currently alive and well in Costa Rica” if you zoom in. The date the letter was sent is not specified.
We contacted DHS and inquired as to whether the department could confirm the letter depicted in the series or the statement Lewis was “alive and well in Costa Rica” at the time it was written. Although we have not yet heard back, we will update this post if and when we do. In 2002, the year Lewis was formally pronounced dead, the agency was established.
Lewis’ location were allegedly revealed in passing on a British morning talk programme in mid-January 2023. It is unclear why this information became widely known, but possibly someone noted that the broader public had missed this potentially explosive information. The news was revealed, according to The New York Post, by a trending tweet from January 17, 2023. The message has around 2 million views on the Twitter network alone as of this writing.
As of this writing, we haven’t been able to independently confirm whether the DHS letter is genuine or whether Lewis is still alive or passed away at some point after going missing. If more information becomes available, we will update this report.