New Leads Into Disappearance of Carole Baskin's Husband Sought After 'Tiger King' Proven To Be Huge Hit

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is using the popularity of “Tiger King” to renew interest and possibly drum up more leads in Lewis’ case. 
Hillsborough County Sheriff

Police in Florida are capitalizing on the immense success of the Netflix docuseries "Tiger King" and asking for help in a case highlighted in the series. 

Investigators have asked for tips in the 1997 disappearance of Jack “Don” Lewis, the husband of Carole Baskin, the so-called nemesis of the series’ focus, Joe Exotic. In the series, Exotic claims Baskin killed her husband. Baskin denies having any involvement in her husband’s disappearance and says she did not kill him.  

Exotic, who was born Joseph Schreibvogel, is currently serving 22 years in federal prison for trying to hire a hitman to murder Baskin. 

The investigation into Lewis' disappearance remains open.  

The story of Schreibvogel and the world he inhabited was the subject of “Tiger King,” which has gone on to become the No. 1 most-streamed program on Netflix. Now, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is using the popularity of “Tiger King” to renew interest and possibly drum up more leads in Lewis’ 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. 

Lewis went missing August 18, 1997. Two days after Baskin called police to report him missing, the millionaire’s van was found in a private airport parking lot just south of Tampa, according to a published report. Baskin reportedly said that before he vanished, Lewis told her had some business to tend to in Costa Rica. 

"Tiger King" highlights many theories about Lewis' disappearance.  

“There was rumors that this was an ‘insurance scam type of thing,’" Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department patrol sergeant Greg Thomas told Oxygen

Lewis' former attorney said during the docuseries that he believed his client went to check out a plane and that he may have been thrown from one. 

During the series, Baskin said that the caretaker of one of Lewis' properties in Costa Rica claimed to have seen him.

Baskin owns Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary near Tampa, Florida. She has never been named a suspect and on Sunday, she issued a statement on her blog about the documentary and its handling of her husband's disappearance. 

She wrote that she was approached by the filmmakers five years ago and was told they wanted to make a documentary that would expose abuse and the "misery caused by the rampant breeding of big cat cubs." 

"There are not words for how disappointing it is to see that the series not only does not do any of that, but has had the sole goal of being as salacious and sensational as possible to draw viewers," Baskin wrote. "As part of that, 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 in 1997.

"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," she continued. "They did not care about truth. The unsavory lies are better for getting viewers.

"There is no short, simple way to refute so many lies. If you do want to know the truth, it requires understanding the history of events in the years before my husband’s disappearance and the roles and behaviors of the people interviewed in the series, which I have tried to do as concisely as I can below but still requires a few pages," she wrote. 

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a press conference Tuesday that due the popularity of the docuseries, they have received at least six tips a day but none have been credible. The sheriff said that a person of interest or suspect has never been named because "nothing clear and definitive" in the evidence to point to a single person or persons. 

"There has been a lot of suspicion and when you watch the documentary more theories arise," he added.

Chorister said Lewis' case has never been closed and has remained open. 

A spokesperson for Big Cat Rescue said Baskin and the team "hope the Sheriff's plea will lead to new information about what happened to Don Lewis." 

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