The Unresolved Mystery of Don Lewis: The Disappeared Husband of Joe Exotic
Joe Exotic has become a household name ever since the release of Netflix’s popular docuseries, “Tiger King.” The series explored the bizarre world of big cat owners and the alleged crimes committed by Joe Exotic. One of the biggest mysteries surrounding Joe Exotic is the disappearance of his husband, Don Lewis, in 1997. The case has remained unsolved for over two decades, and many theories have arisen regarding what really happened to Don Lewis.
Background on Joe Exotic
Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is a former big cat owner who operated a roadside zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. He gained notoriety for his eccentric personality and his feud with animal rights activist, Carole Baskin. In 2019, Joe Exotic was convicted of two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. He is currently serving a 22-year sentence in a federal prison in Texas.
Disappearance of Don Lewis
Don Lewis was Joe Exotic’s second husband and a co-owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. On August 18, 1997, Don Lewis was reported missing by his wife, Carole Baskin. Baskin claimed that Lewis left their home in the early hours of the morning to fly to Costa Rica and never returned. The police launched an investigation but found no trace of Lewis. His car was found at a private airport, and his plane was missing. The plane was later discovered in a nearby wildlife preserve, but there was no sign of Lewis.
Theories regarding the Disappearance of Don Lewis
Joe Exotic has denied any involvement in the disappearance of Don Lewis, but many people believe otherwise. Here are some of the theories that have been proposed:
1. Joe Exotic Fed Don Lewis to his tigers
One of the most popular theories is that Joe Exotic fed Don Lewis to his tigers. Lewis had expressed concerns about the safety of his animals and reportedly told his friends that if anything were to happen to him, it would be because of Joe Exotic. According to a former employee of the park, Joe Exotic once told him that “If you want to get rid of somebody, you have to feed them to the tigers.” In the “Tiger King” series, Joe Exotic joked about putting perfume on Don Lewis to make his tigers eat him.
2. Carole Baskin is responsible for the disappearance of Don Lewis
Carole Baskin has denied any involvement in the disappearance of her husband, but many people believe she had something to do with it. Baskin and Lewis had a tumultuous relationship, and Lewis had filed a restraining order against her two months before his disappearance. Additionally, Baskin inherited Lewis’s estate after he disappeared, leading some to speculate that she had a motive for his murder.
3. Don Lewis faked his own death
Some people believe that Don Lewis faked his own death and disappeared to Costa Rica to start a new life. In the “Tiger King” series, Joe Exotic alleged that Lewis was involved in drug trafficking and had connections in Costa Rica. However, there has been no concrete evidence to support this theory.
4. Don Lewis was murdered by someone else
Another theory is that Don Lewis was murdered by someone else unrelated to the exotic animal trade. Lewis was a wealthy businessman, and some believe that he may have been the victim of a robbery gone wrong or that someone else had a motive to kill him.
The disappearance of Don Lewis remains a mystery to this day, despite numerous investigations and theories. Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin have both denied involvement in his disappearance, but many people remain suspicious of them. The case has garnered renewed attention in recent years following the release of “Tiger King,” and there is hope that new evidence may come to light. Until then, the bizarre world of Joe Exotic and his missing husband will continue to captivate audiences around the world.