Between dating shows, cooking shows and movies, Tiger King: Murder, Madness and Mayhem stands out in the large catalog of original Netflix content. The crime focus series follow the story of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, known as Joe Exotic, a big cat breeder. While most of the series focuses on his career with lions, tigers, and bears, and the murder-letting plan that put him behind bars, there’s a lot of the story that could have been his very own docuseries.
Joe Exotic did not hide his negative feelings towards Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL. In addition to rivals of creatures in the big cat game, he believed that Baskin murdered her husband Jack Donald Lewis, who went to Don Lewis. She’s maintained her innocence for over 20 years, and with no evidence linking her to the suspected murder, the cold case remains open.
Carole Baskin’s relationship with Don Lewis
According to the documentary, Baskin grew up poor, usually in mobile homes. She married an abusive man who fathered her daughter, Jamie Murdock. Baskin met Lewis, a multi-millionaire, in 1981 when she was 20 years old and he was 42 years old. Both Baskin and Lewis were married to other people at the time, and he also had children. They met as Lewis drove down the street and he saw Baskin crying on the side of the road after arguing with her husband. After some convincing, she got into his car because he needed someone to talk to. They spent the night together.
When Baskin was 24 years old, she left her husband to be with Lewis. The two first entered the world of big cats in 1992 when they bought a bobcat. From there, their numbers grew with more bobcats and lynxes, and they opened the Wildlife Reserve on Easy Street, which would eventually become Big Cat Rescue. The couple started to disagree and argue about the direction of their business – Baskin wanted to collect and love the animals, while Lewis saw it more as a breeding and money opportunity.
Lewis was spoken of with a wandering eye and was unable to settle down with just one woman. It was rumored that he had a mistress in Costa Rica. Baskin was not seen in a big light either, as many thought she was hungry for his money. Towards the end, there was also divorce and it was suspected that he was preparing his belongings so that he wouldn’t lose everything if they broke up.
In Tiger King, we learn that Lewis gave his executive assistant Anne McQueen an envelope with paperwork in it, saying that he should give it to the police if something happens to him. It included a copy of the restraining order that Lewis had brought against Baskin for threatening to kill him a second time. The June 1997 restraining order noted that Baskin had his own weapon and had hidden his pistol. He was not protected because the threats were covered by the first amendment. Baskin said she never threatened him.
Lewis was last seen on August 18, 1997. Baskin said the last thing he said to her was that he left “early, early, early” the next day to transport cars to Costa Rica. He was reported missing on August 19, 1997 and three or four days later his abandoned van was found at the airport with the keys and his suitcase inside. Not exactly the trail you want to leave if you’re deliberately trying to disappear, right?
However, Baskin has her own suspicions – one is that Lewis may have staged his own disappearance, according to a 1998 article in People.
There is no evidence that Lewis flew to Costa Rica. Baskin had talked to the press about a major crash that he had before causing him to never be the same and to have memory problems. But other people around Lewis said this was not true. Obviously, some thought she was the stage for him to develop dementia, so it could be believed that he just disappeared.
After the Netflix docuseries came out, Baskin went to Big Cat Rescue refute things in Tiger King. She explained that someone called her Alzheimer’s disease, and that was not a common word at the time. She brought Lewis to her psychiatrist, who referred them to another doctor in the same building. That doctor diagnosed Lewis with bipolar disorder and gave him a prescription. Baskin said his behavior was getting weirder and he disappeared before they could go to an appointment with the specialist.
The Meat Grinder Theory
There are several theories about Baskin’s involvement in her husband’s disappearance. One is that there was a septic tank under a building in the sanctuary, and it was placed in it. Another reason is that she killed her husband, ground his body parts in a meat grinder on site and fed the big cats.
“It’s a perfect scenario to get rid of someone,” said Donna Pettis, Lewis’ oldest of four children People. “We were upset that the police did not test the DNA on the meat grinder.”
Baskin said People that her tigers eat meat, not people.
Strongly convinced that Baskin played a role in her husband’s disappearance, Joe Exotic is also an aspiring country music star who has made over a dozen music videos. He sang a song called “Here Kitty Kittyabout Baskin who reportedly killed her husband and fed him to big cats. A Baskin lookalike can be seen in the music videos that feed Lewis’ body parts.
It is worth noting that Baskin’s brother was a member of the sheriff. Baskin said she “never really knew” her brother because of their six-year age difference. But on the day Lewis went missing, Baskin left Wildlife on Easy Street to pick up milk for the cats at 3am. Her car broke down and she ran into her brother and another deers. That deputy gave Baskin a ride back to her house. The last time she said she saw her husband was a few hours later.
In an article from 2005 in Tampa Bay Times, Lynda Sanchez, Lewis’ daughter, said that her father never went without phone calls for 24 hours, even when he was on a business trip.
“Each of us … volunteered do a lie detector test“Sanchez said.” Carole is the only one who doesn’t want one. ‘
Now is the time to talk about money, because we know that Lewis had a lot of it and that it could easily be a motive in his disappearance. There were two wills and two powers of attorney. McQueen, Lewis’ executive assistant, was the executor for both the wills and the powers of attorney for Lewis and Baskin. However, on the new documents that Baskin produced, the power of attorney changed in her, so she had the power of estate.
What prompted people to raise their eyebrows was a phrase at the top of Lewis’s document, “This enduring family power of attorney will not be compromised by any disability or disappearance. ‘
Lewis’s lawyer said that in his 37-year practice, he had never seen the proxy document “or disappearance,” making this phrase “terribly unusual.”
Since Lewis had disappeared and had not died technically, he could not be legally declared dead until five years after his disappearance. Baskin had declared him legally dead five years and one day after he disappeared. The money and asset story gets messy, because there are two sides to it: that of Lewis’s ex-wife and children and Baskin’s.
According to his ex-wife and children, Baskin took assets from their name and put them in her name. Baskin said Lewis cast off his children after they tried to take him back to court because they didn’t think their mom would get a fair settlement during the divorce. Baskin said Lewis asked to destroy their confidence, but Baskin decided not to because she thought he would feel different one day.
To be clear, there is no evidence that Baskin has any involvement in the disappearance of Don Lewis; the case is still open. All we say is we didn’t think it could be the big cat saga this one wild.