Netflix’s Tiger King star Carole Baskin’s husband Don Lewis ‘strangled and thrown into sea’ as cops say he WAS murdered

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FLYING low over the Gulf of Mexico in a light aircraft, Carole Baskin’s then husband Don Lewis was brutally strangled and dumped into the frothing waves below.

That’s the latest astonishing claim — made by Lewis’s lawyer — in the 23-year mystery of Don’s disappearance, a story featured in lockdown’s break-out TV hit, Netflix’s Tiger King.

Carole Baskin’s husband, Don Lewis, was  ‘brutally strangled and dumped’ in the Gulf of Mexico, a lawyer has claimed
Lewis’s lawyer say the self-made millionaire was strangled in an airplane before being dropped out in the waves
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office

Attorney Joseph Fritz is insistent Lewis was murdered, claiming: “What I had heard was that he was strangled from the back seat of an airplane over the Gulf at 50 feet and dropped out over the Gulf.”

Self-made millionaire Don’s truck was found abandoned at a private airfield 40 miles from the big cat sanctuary he ran with wife Carole near Tampa, Florida.

Fritz said Don liked to fly under the range of radar detection as his pilot’s licence had been revoked. Fritz — who says he doesn’t know who killed his client — added: “Don Lewis was terribly cheap while he was very wealthy.

“What would have lured him more than anything else is a good deal on an airplane. So that’s what I assume happened, that he got lured up to look at an airplane.

The new claims come following theories Carole Baskin would have killed her husband to inherit his fortune
AFP or licensors

“He loved those cats. He never would have just walked away from them. Ever.”

The theory is the latest twist in the Tiger King saga after its main character, Joe Exotic, claimed Carole Baskin, 58, murdered husband Don and fed him to her tigers so she could inherit his fortune.


Exotic is serving 22 years for plotting to murder Carole, who had spent years trying to shut down his zoo and cub petting operation.

Carole, never officially a suspect, has vehemently protested her innocence over “lies and innuendos” in the Netflix series.

She said of Tiger King’s directors: “They did not care about truth. The unsavoury lies are better for getting viewers.” She says she now fears leaving home because of death threats received following Tiger King’s runaway success.

Carole, a flowers-in-her-hair Sixties throwback type, is known for video messages with the catchphrase, “Hey all you cool cats and kittens”.

Carole was never a suspect in the cold case and claims the TV hit series was full of ‘lies and innuendos’
Splash News

Since the series became a hit she has faced ridicule through dozens of online memes with many suggesting she had a hand in Don’s murder.

A branch of cake and ice cream chain Baskin-Robbins in Kansas put up a huge sign declaring: “No relation to Carole Baskin.”

Carole and her current husband Howard, a retired management consultant, say they initially believed Tiger King would be a documentary with an agenda of exposing cruelty in the captive tiger trade.

Instead much of the hit series focused on whether Carole killed second husband Don.

Carole claims her innocence as she says producers of the Netflix series were more interested in ‘unsavoury lies’ in order to get viewers

Howard said: “Anyone who spends an hour with Carole would come away knowing there was no way she had any involvement in Don’s disappearance.”

In a video on the couple’s website, he added: “The vicious rumours that were spread by his family are absolute nonsense.”

He invited Kim Kardashian to meet Carole after she tweeted asking fans: “Do you think Carole killed him?”

Amanda Knox, convicted then acquitted of murdering roommate Meredith Kercher in Italy, watched the TV shows and said: “By all means, let’s investigate further. Let’s let Carole Baskin have her day in court, if the evidence warrants a trial.

Main character Joe Exotic is currently serving 22 years for plotting to murder Carole Baskin

“But let’s be careful with the impulse to think that we know all the facts and are qualified to pass down judgment because we sat in our pyjamas, day-drinking and tweeting during quarantine, while we binged on docuseries on Netflix.”

Now Sheriff Chad Chronister, who is leading the investigation into Don’s disappearance, has instructed his team to re-examine the case file as new leads pour in from people who have seen the programmes.

On video link from Florida, he said: “The case remains open. We’re trying to play catch up due to the popularity of this series.”

Carole, who turned down a police lie detector test in 2011 on the advice of her lawyers, has sought to set the record straight on her website.

Cops say the case remains open and they are ‘trying to play catch up due to the popularity of this series’

The mum-of-one insisted that Don had bipolar disorder and wrote: “His behaviour became increasingly strange. He started refusing to use the bathroom, and defecating outside.”

Don and Carole’s relationship was always tempestuous. They met in 1981 as Carole roamed Tampa’s streets weeping after throwing a potato at her first husband during a row.

Don cruised past in a truck. He was 42, she was more than 20 years his junior. When he stopped he had a revolver on the passenger seat which he said she should point at him if she didn’t trust him.

She got in and picked up the gun. The pair spent the night together — with Don not laying a finger on her — and four years later she left her first husband for him, while he left his wife and four children for her.

In June 1997, Don filed a restraining order against Carole as he said she threatened to shoot him

They founded Wildlife On Easy Street in 1992 as a home for big cats, and later changed its name to Big Cat Sanctuary. The pair would later clash on how it should be run.

Don wanted to breed the exotic cats and sell them. Carole believed breeding for cash was unethical. Their fighting grew worse.

In June 1997, Don — who often visited Costa Rica, where he is said to have had a mistress — filed a restraining order against Carole.


He told cops she had threatened to shoot him. The petition was rejected, but Don gave a copy to his secretary, Anne McQueen, for safe keeping. Then Don disappeared — leaving his considerable fortune behind.

His van was found at the airfield but there was no evidence he had embarked on a flight. Don’s daughter, Donna Pettis, was the first to suggest her father had been fed to Carole’s big cats.

She said in 1998: “It’s a perfect scenario to dispose of someone. We were upset the cops didn’t test the DNA on the meat grinder.”

When Don disappeared, leaving his fortune behind, Carole said ‘My tigers eat meat, they don’t eat people’ in a bitter row with his family
AP:Associated Press

Carole — feuding with Don’s family over his will — replied at the time: “My tigers eat meat, they don’t eat people.”

On her web page Carole has now countered the meat grinder theory, which was re-aired on Tiger King, saying: “The meat grinder shown in the video was enormous. Our meat grinder was one of those little tabletop, hand-crank things.”

Sheriff Chronister has revealed the meat grinders weren’t DNA tested at the time because they had been removed before Don disappeared.

And he quashed the theory that Don was buried under a septic tank at Big Cat Rescue, saying: “The tank wasn’t put in until years later, so it wasn’t relevant.”

An Investigation Discovery series which will probe Don’s disappearance is soon to come out, promising new revelations

Sheriff Chronister highlights key facts in the case that still baffle officers.

He said: “How do you do it [disappear]? Leaving your children behind, your wealth behind, there’s a lot of red flags in this case. As a 28-year law enforcement official, I certainly believe that he was murdered, but how and where is the missing piece.”

And the sheriff also pointed to Don’s will, which specified that if he “disappeared” his fortune would go to Carole. The lawman pointed out: “Who had a will that ever talked about disappearance?”

Carole says on her website: “Don was not easy to live with and, like most couples, we had our moments. But I never threatened him and I certainly had nothing to do with his disappearance.”

“When he disappeared I did everything I could to assist the police. I encouraged them to check out the rumours from Costa Rica and separately I hired a private investigator.”

Now the American crime documentary channel Investigation Discovery has revealed it is to screen a series which will probe Don’s disappearance.

It has promised new revelations. Where the Tiger King saga goes from here is uncertain — but it’s sure to make great TV.