Tiger King's Carole Baskin Responds to Claim That Husband Don Lewis May Be Alive

A key element regarding the mysterious disappearance of Carole Baskin's husband Don Lewis was uncovered in Tiger King 2. Find out what she said about it.

By Corinne Heller Nov 20, 2021 11:18 PMTags
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Carole Baskin has some thoughts about a claim made in Tiger King 2 that her missing husband, Florida millionaire Don Lewis, may be alive.

The Florida millionaire disappeared in 1997 and was legally declared dead in 2002. On the hit 2020 Netflix docuseries Tiger King, Oklahoma zoo keeper Joe Exotic accused Baskin, a big-cat rescue activist, of killing her husband, who had told her he wanted a divorce. While she has denied involvement in his disappearance, police have deemed her a "high-profile person of interest" in the case.

On the recently released Tiger King 2 series, a document the show identifies as being from the Department of Homeland Security states that Don is "currently alive and well in Costa Rica." In an interview with British TV network ITV's show This Morning, which aired on Thursday, Nov. 18, Baskin said the letter was "one of the really exciting things that came out of Tiger King 2."

Baskin added that this "means this had to have happened after 2002 because Homeland Security wasn't even around until 2002," referring to the  Homeland Security Act of 2002.

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"And they said that my husband Don Lewis is alive and well in Costa Rica," she said, "and yet all this hay has been made about me having something to do with his disappearance, when Homeland Security has known where he is, at least since back then."

The Department of Homeland Security had no immediate response when reached by E! News. The organization has not commented publicly to the claims made in Tiger King 2 or to remarks by Baskin, who was not involved in the making of the sequel series and even sued Netflix for using footage of her in it. According to People, the streaming service and production company Royal Goode Productions had said in court documents that contracts Baskin signed permits them to use previously shot footage of her in future projects.

Netflix; Carole Lewis/Tampa Bay Times/ZUMAPRESS.com

On the second episode of Tiger King 2, Lewis' attorney, Joseph Fritz, said that after the first season was released in early 2020, a police detective called him and "got mad at me and slipped up and told me there were federal reports of [Lewis] alive and well in Costa Rica that he had to overcome." Fritz said a friend who works in federal law enforcement helped locate more information for him. The document attributed to Homeland Security is then displayed. Parts are blacked out and no date is shown. 

The document states that Lewis "owns property in Costa Rica and has traveled regularly," that Baskin filed a missing person's report with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in Tampa in August 1997, stating that "her husband had disappeared." The document also states that "a van owned by Don Lewis was located at Pilot County Estate in Pasco County, Fl. Detectives found no evidence of foul play. Hillsborough S.O. Detectives learned that Lewis had recently purchased a $1.5 million life insurance policy."

"[Redacted], working in conjunction with SAC/New Orleans S/A [redacted] has learned that Don Lewis is currently alive and well in Costa Rica," the document says. "Upon receiving this information, S/A [redacted] contacted Hillsborough S.O. Detective Jorge Fernandez and advised him of Lewis' whereabouts."

The report also states, "S/A [redacted] has learned that Lewis has loaned money to various individuals in Costa Rica and could live quite well on the interest earned...Lewis could reside in Costa Rica indefinitely."

E! News has not independently verified the authenticity of the document. Baskin told E! News on Saturday that she has written to the FBI to ask for a non-redacted copy of the document.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in Florida renewed its investigation into the case in 2020. Cpl. Moises Garcia told The Tampa Bay Times that the Department of Homeland Security recently assisted the Sheriff's Office through its Panama office by "running down leads in Costa Rica."

Garcia declined to comment on the document shown on the show, citing the open investigation. However, Joseph C. Dominick, a former sheriff's investigator who assisted Garcia on the case, told the newspaper that  anything on the series suggesting Lewis was alive in Costa Rica is "all noise."

Garcia called Baskin a "high-profile person of interest" in the case. When asked if she is a suspect, Garcia said the only person not a suspect is himself, adding, "Everybody else is a possibility."

Baskin said in a statement on her website on Thursday that Tiger King 2 "continues to do everything they can to falsely convince the viewer that Carole was involved in Don Lewis' disappearance...And for everyone who still wants to believe that Carole killed Don, then please explain to us why you think armchair detectives, or you are better informed than the Special Agent in Charge at the FBI in this Homeland Security Document which says 'Don Lewis is currently alive and well in Costa Rica.'"

Lewis' family is offering a private $100,000 reward for tips that would lead to finding out what happened to him. They have advertised it on billboards and even in an ad that aired in fall 2020 during Dancing With the Stars, when Baskin competed on the show.

Baskin has a theory that Lewis crashed a small plane or ultralight into the Gulf of Mexico, which she detailed in a recent Reddit Q&A. On Tiger King 2, Lewis' associate in Costa Rica, Rey Rodriguez, said that the man "talked about moving to Costa Rica to start over fresh" and told him "he was there to get away from Carole." Rodriguez said Lewis flew a Cessna plane back and forth there and then he often brought in heavy boxes filled with $100,000-$200,000 in $100 bills, buried under used clothes, and put the case "in different companies" to hide money.

One of Lewis' daughters. Donna Pettis, said on the episode, "That sounds like Dad. That sounds like he would have been trying to get his money out of the States so that when he divorced Carole, there would be less that he would have to give her."

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