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In The Wake Of 'Tiger King' Popularity, Sheriff Asks Public For New Leads In Disappearance Of Carole Baskin's Husband
Investigators are hoping the fascination with the Netflix docuseries will lead to answers to what happened to Don Lewis, who vanished without a trace in 1997.
Jack Donald Lewis — who went by Don Lewis — vanished without a trace back on Aug. 18, 1997. At the time, he and Baskin were running Wildlife on Easy Street, a sanctuary for exotic cats in Tampa.Two days after he disappeared, his van was found at an airport about 40 miles from Tampa, People reported in 1998.
“He just literally vanished into thin air,” Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department patrol sergeant Greg Thomas, who worked homicide and cold cases for the department for years, previously told Oxygen.com.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is now asking the public for help in the case.
"Since @netflix and #Covid19 #Quarantine has made #TigerKing all the rage, I figured it was a good time to ask for new leads," he tweeted Monday.
He included a poster in the tweet which states, "only YOU can help solve the Jack 'Don' Lewis cold case.”
While “Tiger King” focuses primarily on eccentric Oklahoma zookeeper Joe Exotic and his downfall for plotting to kill Baskin, it also devotes an episode to the theory that Baskin may have killed her husband.
Exotic had even made a country music video featuring a Baskin lookalike feeding what is meant to be her spouse's remains to tigers. Baskin — founder of the Tampa, Florida-based Big Cat Rescue — has vehemently denied those allegations. The docuseries also dives into rumors that Lewis may have snuck off to Costa Rica and that he may have been shoved off an airplane.
Thomas previously told Oxygen.com that this case is not considered a murder.
"As far as our case goes, he’s still a missing person," he told Oxygen.com. "It’s not a homicide because he’s missing. We have no knowledge of where he’s at or a body or anything."
Baskin has always claimed her innocence and she has called out the docuseries for conjuring up rumors.
“It has a segment devoted to suggesting, with lies and innuendos from people who are not credible, that I had a role in the disappearance of my husband Don 21 years ago,” Baskin wrote in a blog post. “The series presents this without any regard for the truth or in most cases even giving me an opportunity before publication to rebut the absurd claims.”
Baskin told Oxygen.com on Monday that she is no longer doing interviews.
Lewis would be 81 now. He was 5 foot 10 and weighed 170 pounds when he disappeared.
Anyone with leads in his disappearance is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200.
Editor's note: In his initial interview with Oxygen.com, Greg Thomas of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department stated that Carole Baskin was looked at as a person of interest in her husband Don Lewis' disappearance. Amanda Granit, public relations coordinator for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, has since clarified that Baskin was never officially named a person of interest, nor has anyone else. The case is still classified as a missing persons case.