The Mystery of Don Lewis’s Disappearance: Unpacking the Tiger King Documentary
The Netflix documentary, Tiger King, introduced the world to Joe Exotic and his infamous feud with animal rights activist Carole Baskin. But amidst the sensationalized chaos, there’s one story that has been largely overlooked: the disappearance of Joe Exotic’s third husband, Don Lewis.
Don Lewis, the wealthy owner of Big Cat Rescue, vanished without a trace in 1997. His disappearance sparked investigations, rumors, and theories, leaving his family and friends wondering what happened to him.
As the documentary revealed, Lewis and Exotic had a tumultuous relationship, and many people suspect that Exotic was involved in his husband’s disappearance. However, there is no concrete evidence to support this claim, and Exotic maintains his innocence.
One theory is that he simply ran away. According to his former attorney, Joe Fritz, Lewis had grown tired of his life in Florida and had planned to go to Costa Rica to start a new life. Lewis had allegedly discussed this plan with his wife, Carole Baskin, and even had a plane ticket to Costa Rica booked.
However, this theory has several holes. For one, Lewis left behind a fortune that he would have had to abandon in order to disappear successfully. In addition, it’s unlikely that he would have left behind his beloved big cats.
Another theory is that Lewis was murdered. The circumstances surrounding his disappearance were suspicious, to say the least. His van was found at a private airport, and his keys and wallet were still inside. Some people believe that he was flown out of the country and killed.
There are also suspicions that Exotic was involved in Lewis’s disappearance. During the documentary, Exotic frequently spoke about wanting to kill his rival, Carole Baskin. It’s possible that he saw Lewis as an obstacle to his plans, as Lewis had been vocal about speaking out against Exotic and his treatment of animals.
Furthermore, Exotic had access to weapons and was known to be violent. According to one of his former employees, Exotic had taken another employee out to a secluded area and threatened to kill him.
However, again, there is no concrete evidence linking Exotic to Lewis’s disappearance. There are no witnesses, no murder weapon, and no physical evidence.
One of the most puzzling aspects of Lewis’s disappearance is the lack of thorough investigation. According to Lewis’s family, the initial investigation was sloppy and incomplete. The police failed to search the Big Cat Rescue compound thoroughly, and they did not follow up on leads.
It’s unclear why the police didn’t take Lewis’s disappearance more seriously. Some speculate that his wealth and influence played a role in the lack of investigation, while others point to corruption within the local police department.
The case of Don Lewis’s disappearance remains unsolved to this day. However, in recent years, there have been new developments that could lead to answers.
In 2019, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister reopened the case and solicited new leads. The popularity of the Tiger King documentary has also brought renewed attention to the case.
One of the most intriguing developments came from an anonymous letter sent to Lewis’s family in 2020. The letter contained a death certificate for Don Lewis and alleged that his body had been buried on the property of Big Cat Rescue.
While the authenticity of the death certificate has not been confirmed, the discovery of human remains on the property in 2020 has renewed speculation about Lewis’s disappearance. However, the remains were found to be from an animal, not a human.
The disappearance of Don Lewis is a tragic mystery that has haunted his loved ones for over two decades. Despite the lack of answers, there is hope that new developments could lead to the truth, bringing closure to Lewis’s family and justice for those responsible.