The disappearance of Don Lewis, the third husband of Joe Exotic, is one of the most intriguing storylines in the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King”. Lewis vanished without a trace in 1997, and there are many suspicious factors that have led to speculation that Exotic may have been involved in his disappearance.
Lewis was a millionaire businessman who founded a wildlife sanctuary in Florida, and he met Joe Exotic in the early 1990s at an exotic animal auction. Lewis soon became Exotic’s third husband but their relationship was far from smooth. Lewis frequently complained about Exotic’s treatment of the animals and his lack of business acumen, and he had numerous affairs with other women.
On the night of August 18, 1997, Lewis vanished without a trace. Despite an extensive search, no body or evidence has ever been found that could definitively link Exotic to Lewis’s disappearance. However, Exotic’s behavior immediately after Lewis’s disappearance raised red flags. He refused to cooperate with police and hired a private investigator to find Lewis, but he didn’t seem genuinely concerned about his husband’s fate.
In fact, Exotic began to make bold moves financially that seemed to benefit him greatly in the wake of Lewis’s disappearance. He successfully convinced Lewis’s family to sign over his power of attorney and then allegedly used it to change Lewis’s will, which had left the majority of his assets to his family. He also sold off Lewis’s animals, cars, and planes and used the profits to pay for a new zoo and his political career.
Despite mounting suspicions and investigations, Exotic was never charged with any crime related to Lewis’s disappearance. He was instead convicted in 2019 on 17 federal charges of animal cruelty and two counts of murder-for-hire, the latter of which was related to a plot to kill his arch-nemesis and animal rights activist Carole Baskin.
Don Lewis’s disappearance remains an open case in the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. They have received many tips over the years but have not made any significant progress in solving the case. The mysterious disappearance of Don Lewis remains a puzzle, and until new evidence emerges, we may never know what truly happened to him.