Carole Baskin and Big Cat Rescue became household names following the 2020 release of the Netflix docuseries Tiger King, which documents the feud between Joe “Joe Exotic” Schreibvogel and Carole Baskin. It also talked about the disappearance of Baskin’s ex-husband Jack “Don” Lewis.
Lewis went missing on August 18, 1997, seemingly leaving no trace behind. He is still missing to this day, and authorities are still investigating the case over 20 years later.
“His van was found at a Pasco County airport with the keys on the floor. Deputies searched the wildlife sanctuary, then named Wildlife on Easy Street, and flew to Costa Rica looking for leads,” according to the Tampa Bay Tribune. “They never found him.”
The Case is Still Open and Being Investigated
Shocking new information in the disappearance of tiger activist Carole Baskin’s former husband Don Lewis. @SchlesCBS investigates. Watch "#48Hours Suspicion," Wednesday at 10/9c. https://t.co/YdGKtL6Uj0
— 48 Hours (@48hours) September 8, 2020
Since he has not been found, Don Lewis’ missing persons investigation is still open, and authorities are actively investigating any leads and tips that they receive.
During the premiere episode of season 29 of Dancing With the Stars, Lewis’ family took out an advertising slot in order to implore the public to send in tips about where Lewis, or Lewis’ body, may be found.
According to TMZ, the commercial will run during the first commercial break of the premiere and features Lewis’ three daughters Gale, Lynda and Donna alongside Lewis’ former assistant Anne McQueen, who all allege Baskin had something to do with Lewis’ disappearance and have filed a lawsuit seeking more information about it.
Baskin has filed to have that lawsuit dismissed by the court. The legal documents state that the “Plaintiffs’ Complaint is entirely devoid of any facts that would allow for equitable tolling… This is an entirely improper use of a bill of discovery.”
It’s notable that the Pure Bill of Discovery was filed to seek information about something, and it cannot be used to claim any compensation; however, the information gathered, if applicable, could be used as a basis of a later lawsuit filed.
The Pure Bill of Discovery lawsuit comes 18 years after Don Lewis was legally declared “presumed dead.”
Baskin Denies Any Involvement in Lewis’ Disappearance
Though fans of Tiger King were quick to jump to the conclusion that Carole Baskin allegedly killed her ex-husband and put his body through a meat grinder, feeding him to their tigers, Baskin denies any involvement in the disappearance.
On the Big Cat Rescue website, the Baskins wrote a blog post titled Refuting Netflix Tiger King, laying out information the show left out about Joe Exotic’s trial and conviction. The article also painted Don Lewis as an abusive husband.
The family believes they were portrayed “unfairly” in the Tiger King documentary and feel as though they were lied to by producers during the time the documentary was being made.
Howard Baskin, Carole Baskin’s husband, has spoken out about what he says was an “unfair” portrayal of their family and the Big Cat Rescue during Tiger King. In a video to the family’s supporters, Howard Baskin talked about the impact the docuseries had.
“We also believed Eric [Goode] and Rebecca [Chaiklin] when they told us that, while they felt they had to mention the disappearance of Carole’s husband Don 23 years before as part of the context and background on her, that it would be done in a respectful and truthful way,” he said.
The sheriff’s department is seeking new information about the disappearance. Anyone with information about Don Lewis’ disappearance is asked to call the sheriff’s department at 813-247-8200.