Delving Deeper into the Bittersweet Past of Carole Baskin: The Mysterious Disappearance of Don Lewis
Carole Baskin is a name that has recently surged in popularity, all thanks to the Netflix documentary, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.” The series chronicles the lives of Joe Exotic, the flamboyant owner of a huge private zoo, his feud with Carole Baskin, an animal activist and owner of Big Cat Rescue, and the questions around the disappearance of Baskin’s husband, Don Lewis. In this article, we will delve deeper into the bittersweet past of Carole Baskin and try to uncover the truth behind Don Lewis’s mysterious disappearance.
The Life of Don Lewis and Carole Baskin
Don Lewis was an entrepreneur who made his fortune through the sale of real estate and used cars. He owned a number of businesses and also had a passion for big cats, which led him to meet Carole Baskin back in 1980. Carole Baskin was working as a receptionist at a local animal shelter at the time. Her outgoing and vibrant personality caught Lewis’s attention, and he was immediately smitten. The two got married after only a few months of dating and had a daughter together named Jamie Veronica.
Don Lewis’s love for big cats turned into a profitable enterprise when he started buying and trading them with other enthusiasts. He eventually founded Wildlife on Easy Street in the late 1980s, which was later renamed “Big Cat Rescue.” His animal sanctuary specialized in taking in big cats like tigers, lions, and cougars that were mistreated, abandoned, or unwanted. The sanctuary provided these animals with a safe and nurturing environment to live out their lives in peace.
The Falling Out between Don Lewis and Carole Baskin
Things started to sour between Don Lewis and Carole Baskin, however, as the pair had vastly different goals and methods for their animal sanctuary. Lewis was more interested in breeding and selling exotic animals, while Baskin wanted to end the trade of exotic animals and close down all breeding facilities. Carole Baskin started distancing herself from her husband and expressing outrage over the poor living conditions for the big cats at his wildlife park.
The Disappearance of Don Lewis
In 1997, Don Lewis disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and Carole Baskin became a prime suspect. On August 18th of that year, Don Lewis left his home in Tampa, Florida, for his morning routine of checking on his properties. He never returned. A missing person’s report was filed the following day. Carole Baskin claimed that Lewis left to take a trip to Costa Rica and never returned, leaving behind his van at a local airport. The van was soon discovered by police in a nearby neighborhood, but Lewis was nowhere to be found.
Subsequent investigations looked into the possibility of foul play, but there was little evidence to suggest that Don Lewis had been murdered. However, rumors of Carole Baskin’s involvement in her husband’s disappearance continued to circulate. Some speculated that she had fed him to the tigers at her animal sanctuary, while others suggested that she had arranged for his murder to gain control of his estate.
The Recent Developments and Controversies
The case remains unsolved to this day, but recent developments have reignited the public’s interest. The popularity of Netflix’s “Tiger King” led to a surge in online sleuthing as viewers tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together. One of the show’s stars, Joe Exotic, repeatedly accused Carole Baskin of killing her husband and feeding the tigers to cover up the crime.
Carole Baskin, meanwhile, refutes every claim that Joe made and said that the documentary misrepresented her mission and focused more on her personal life than her endeavor to protect big cats. She maintains that she had nothing to do with her husband’s disappearance and has never been charged with a crime. However, her involvement in the case is still very much in question.
One theory suggests that Don Lewis faked his own death and disappeared to Costa Rica himself. Allegations have surfaced that he was dealing with shady characters in Costa Rica, where he had connections to a small airfield. According to a local pilot, Lewis reportedly asked him how much it would cost to fly a cargo plane to Costa Rica carrying $1 million in cash. They also said that he wanted to get away from his wife and that he would embezzle from Big Cat Rescue for his own benefit, paying out of the wrong accounts, and hiding his assets by buying properties in other people’s names.
On the other hand, in a 1998 interview with People, Carole Baskin said: “He had boundless energy and enthusiasm for life, and I had a desperate need to keep those cats because they were the only thing that gave my life a purpose. So I told him, ‘you can have the toys, but you can’t have the cats!’ Not long after that, he disappeared.” She also mentioned that “There is no way to tell as none of the million-dollar assets he may have had were in anyone’s name that I know of.”
The case remains a mystery, and Carole Baskin continues to deny any involvement in her husband’s disappearance. She now devotes her life to animal rights and has become a prominent figure in the world of big cats. Still, the shadow of Don Lewis’s disappearance hangs over her, and his whereabouts remain unknown. The truth may never be fully uncovered, but the search for answers continues even today.