Tiger King's Jeff Johnson Dead by Suicide at 58

Former reptile dealer Jeff Johnson made a brief appearance on season one, episode four of Tiger King.

By Elyse Dupre Nov 22, 2021 6:46 PMTags
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Jeff Johnson, the former reptile dealer featured in Tiger King, died by suicide on Sept. 8, according to a report filed by the Oklahoma City Police Department.

Per a copy of the report obtained by E! News, Johnson's wife told police they'd gotten into an argument in the garage of their Oklahoma City home and that he shot himself in front of her. She then called the police. When emergency services arrived at the scene, the report continued, Johnson still had a pulse and was taken to a hospital, where he was then pronounced dead. He was 58 years old. The Medical Examiner also listed Johnson's manner of death as suicide.

Johnson made a brief appearance on season one, episode four of Tiger King, during which he talked about Carole Baskin's lawsuit against Joe Exotic. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Exotic was ordered to pay Baskin's Big Cat Rescue nearly $1 million in 2013 to resolve a trademark infringement lawsuit.

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Johnson died days after Erik Cowie, a zookeeper who also appeared on Tiger King, died on Sept. 3. Julie Bolcer of the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner told E! News in October that Cowie's cause of death was acute and chronic alcohol use and that the manner of death was natural.


Tiger King premiered on Netflix in March 2020 and became a popular series amid the coronavirus pandemic. The docuseries followed Exotic, otherwise known as Joseph Maldonado-Passage, his big-cat animal park in Oklahoma and his feud with Baskin. Exotic is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence after being convicted of two counts of murder-for-hire. He was accused of hiring someone to try and kill Baskin. In addition, Exotic was convicted of "eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act," according to the Department of Justice. In July, a court ruled for Exotic to be resentenced; however, his convictions were upheld.

Netflix released its second season of Tiger King on Nov. 17.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.