Don Lewis went missing in 1997 – since then Baskin has faced allegations of murdering him and feeding his body to her tigers
Hey all you cool cats and kittens: Carole Baskin’s ex-husband Don Lewis is alive and well. To recap: Lewis went missing in 1997, six years after his marriage to Baskin. He was declared legally dead in 2002, on the fifth anniversary of his disappearance.
But now, it looks as though Lewis is alive and well and living in Costa Rica. Weirdly, despite outlets only picking up on it this week, it seems as though this news actually broke in 2021, when Baskin appeared on ITV’s This Morning to discuss the second series of Tiger King. She revealed that she’d been contacted by officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Homeland Security: “They said my husband, Don Lewis, is alive and well in Costa Rica. And yet all of this [drama] has been made about me having something to do with his disappearance, when Homeland Security has known where he is at least since back then.”
When Philip Schofield asked Baskin if she really believed he was alive, she admitted she was surprised to learn her ex-husband survived. “I didn’t think he was capable of supporting himself. He took about a million dollars down to Costa Rica, I had agreed to let him do that so he could prove to himself that he could make a living,” she said. “I don’t know how it is that Homeland Security says that he’s alive and well in Costa Rica, but I’m glad to hear it.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, Baskin added that she is shocked to see the media only picking up on the story now. “I’ve mentioned it in the more than 60 interviews I’ve done since then, where reporters asked about Don, so I’m surprised everyone in the press is acting like they aren’t aware of it.”
Lewis’ disappearance was a major plot point in Tiger King. The most credible (but still pretty insane) theory was that Lewis essentially left behind his life in Florida to start afresh in Costa Rica, and had either died on the journey there or successfully began a new life undetected.
There was some evidence to suggest that this was the case. In early 1997, Lewis began transferring ownership of his properties in Florida to a Costa Rican company he controlled, and in the days before his disappearance he bought a plane ticket to Costa Rica. His relationship with Carole was also incredibly strained at this point – he’d even filed a request for a restraining order against her in July 1997, which was ultimately rejected. He also owned several planes and would often fly them, even though his private pilot license had been suspended.
Another zanier theory purported by Joe Exotic on Tiger King was that Baskin had murdered her husband and fed him to her tigers. The crazy theory even led to Brooklyn Charles releasing a track titled “Savage: Tiger King Edition”, which subsequently went viral on TikTok. The song featured the lyrics “Carole Baskin / Killed her husband, whacked him / Can’t convince me that it didn’t happen / Fed him to tigers, they snackin’”. It’s a claim which Baskin has (obviously) always denied.
Admittedly, it’s still not 100 per cent clear if Lewis is actually alive. There’s still an open missing-persons case for Lewis. “We have not received any communication from our federal partners that confirms the location of missing person Mr Don Lewis,” Fentress Fountain, public information officer for the sheriff’s department, told the New York Post. “The investigation into Don Lewis’ disappearance remains a priority for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, as do all missing person cases.”