Tiger King alum Carole Baskin's missing former husband Don Lewis has been allegedly found alive in Costa Rica nearly 20 years after he was declared dead.
The first season of the Netflix docu-series shed light on his disappearance, while Tiger King star Joe Exotic emphasized his nemesis Carole Baskin's involvement in the missing case. However, the latter shot down all allegations and conspiracy theories.
Authorities also failed to find any legal proof against the Big Cat Rescue founder and ruled out foul play. The launch of Tiger King 2 saw renewed interest surrounding Don Lewis’ sudden disappearance.
Viewers were left shocked as Lewis’ attorney Joseph Fritz revealed a detective informed him about Don’s whereabouts. It was mentioned that the millionaire was “alive and well” and allegedly living in Costa Rica with a changed identity.
What happened to Carole Baskin's former husband, Don Lewis?
Carole Baskin and Don Lewis tied the knot in 1991 and established Big Cat Rescue together in 1992. However, the pair had disagreements behind the purpose of the sanctuary as the former wanted to use it for charity while the latter wanted it for business.
A few years into the marriage, Don started spending a lot of time in Costa Rica for business purposes. However, some people alleged that the real estate mogul was involved with other women. His first wife Gladys also claimed he wanted to divorce Carole shortly after their wedding.
On 18 August 1997, the millionaire left for work around 6:00 am but failed to return home. Carole Baskin filed a missing report the following day and told authorities that her husband was set to take another trip to Costa Rica.
On 20 August 1997, police found Don’s van parked outside Pilot Country Airport in Spring Hill. The businessman reportedly owned several private planes but his pilot license was suspended due to multiple accidents. Airport staff mentioned that the missing man was not seen at the airport on the day of his disappearance.
Meanwhile, Carole Baskin told police that Don Lewis had issues with his memory a few years prior to his disappearance. She claimed that the millionaire began forgetting names, places and often bought unnecessary expensive items.
However, Lewis’ attorney Joe Fritz dismissed Baskin’s claims on Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. He claimed that the Don’s mental deterioration was factual and revealed that the entrepreneur filed an injunction against Carole after she allegedly threatened to kill him. The request was dismissed by the court.
Carole Baskin responded by saying that Don filed the restraining order to prevent her from removing “junk” items from his property. She shared that her then-husband even returned to live with her after filing the injunction.
Despite active investigations, Don Lewis’ remains were not found and he was declared “legally dead” after five years of disappearance. This led to several speculations about Carole’s role in her husband’s disappearance and murder.
Joe Exotic, along with Don Lewis’ children and ex-wife, claimed that Carole Baskin allegedly murdered her husband and fed him to the big cats. Although the latter was initially deemed as a “person of interest” in the case, her involvement was ruled out early on in the investigation.
Joe Fritz also mentioned that he heard rumors about Don being killed mid-flight and pushed out of the aircraft into the sea on the day of his disappearance. However, Carole refused to believe the rumors while being suspicious of a possible crash.
She also revealed that Don borrowed money from the local Costa Rican mafia, but despite multiple investigations he was also not found in Costa Rica. Officials also said that his credit card remained unused since his disappearance.
Don Lewis reportedly left $5 million in assets including a $1.25 million life insurance policy for Anne McQueen, his secretary of 18 years. Carole Baskin was embroiled in a legal battle with Don’s children over his assets and the latter received $1 million while the Netflix star received the remaining fortune.
Meanwhile, Carole started dating management consultant Howard Baskin and married him in 2014 in a small beachside ceremony.
Carole Baskin responds to shocking revelation about Don Lewis
The latest developments in the Don Lewis disappearance case have left people shocked. While speaking to Philip Schoefield and Josie Gibson on ITV’s This Morning, Carole Baskin said she was “glad” to hear Don was allegedly alive after being pronounced dead years ago, even though the scenario looked “impossible”:
"I didn't think that he was capable of supporting himself. He took about $1 million down to Costa Rica and I had agreed to let him do that so that he could prove to himself that he couldn't make a living. And when we recovered what we could out of that years later, it was only about $80,000 because the investments he had made were so bad. So I don't know how it is that Homeland Security says he's alive and well in Costa Rica, but I'm glad to hear it."
The 60-year-old also mentioned that Homeland Security reaching out to Sheriff Detective George Fernandez regarding Lewis’ death was one of the most “exciting” things in Tiger King 2:
"They said that my husband, Don Lewis, is alive and well in Costa Rica. And yet all of 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."
However, Carole Baskin has decided to sue Netflix and Royal Goode Productions for an alleged contract breach for using her videos in new episodes of Tiger King without permission.