A Florida Sheriff Is Looking For Tips in the Disappearance of Carole Baskin’s Husband Don Lewis

The rivalry between former G.W. Zoo owner Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, and Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin is at the center of Netflix’s Tiger King. The documentary series takes an in-depth look at the dispute, which began as an online feud and ended with an attempted murder plot, but it also explores the disappearance of Baskin’s former husband Don Lewis. And now, in the wake of the documentary’s success, a Florida sheriff’s department is soliciting tips in the decade’s old case.

“Since @netflix and #Covid19 #Quarantine has made #TigerKing all the rage, I figured it was a good time to ask for new leads,” tweeted Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister Monday.

Lewis, a Tampa-based millionaire who’d made a fortune in real estate and trucking, was last seen in August 1997. His car was found parked at a private airport where Lewis, an amateur pilot who made frequent trips to Costa Rica, was known to have bought aircraft in cash transactions.

In a post to her blog last week, Baskin responded to accusations from Maldonado-Passage—who’s now serving a 22-year prison sentence after being convicted of attempting to hire hitmen to murder her—that she was involved in her husband’s disappearance. “I never threatened him and I certainly had nothing to do with his disappearance,” she wrote. “When he disappeared, I did everything I could to assist the police. I encouraged them to check out the rumors from Costa Rica, and separately I hired a private investigator.”

In an interview with Esquire, Tiger King directors Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode discussed investigating the disappearance during their work on the series, only to find few leads. “We subpoenaed phone records, and they don’t exist anymore in the records,” Chaiklin said. “We’ve done so many things that we were trying to follow up on, and there’s just such a lack of evidence that it’s really difficult to pursue it further.”

Gabrielle Bruney Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.