SPOILER WARNING: Do not read on unless you’ve watched Netflix’s Tiger King.
Update: Tampa authorities confirmed Tuesday that they have been receiving numerous tips concerning the Don Lewis cold case, which was featured in Netflix’s latest true crime docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Tiger King).
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister told local media that the police will be reviewing “a lot of the evidence” in regards to the disappearance of Lewis, the ex-husband of Tiger King subject Carole Baskin.
Chronister also said his office was getting at least six tips a day, but none of the leads were credible.
The sheriff confirmed Baskin said her lawyer told her to refuse a polygraph test.
“There is a lot of suspicion that surrounds that will,” Chronister said.
He also said that the meat grinders mentioned in Tiger King were removed several days before the sheriff’s office searched Baskin’s property, so there was no way to test them.
Original Story: Netflix’s latest true crime docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Tiger King) exposed some of the biggest exotic wild animal collectors in the United States, and some theories accused Carole Baskin of a crime involving the disappearance of her ex-husband, millionaire Jack (Don) Lewis.
The seven-part docuseries follows the life of zoo owner Joe Exotic and the events that led to his allegedly hiring a hitman in a failed attempt to take out his main rival, Baskin, but many viewers were focused on whether she was involved in Lewis’s disappearance.
Baskin, an animal rights activist owner of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., was not happy about her portrayal in Tiger King, which according to Netflix is the most popular TV show at the moment.
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Members of the big cat community claim in the Netflix series that Baskin murdered Lewis and fed him to the tigers. Lewis was last seen alive on Aug. 18, 1997, before disappearing.
Following the release of Tiger King, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister took to Twitter to ask for any new leads to help solve the cold case.
“Since @netflix and #COVID19 #Quarantine has made #TigerKing all the rage, I figured it was a good time to ask for new leads,” Chronister tweeted, adding the hashtags #CaroleBaskin, #BigCatRescue and #JoeExotic.
Since @netflix and #Covid19 #Quarantine has made #TigerKing all the rage, I figured it was a good time to ask for new leads. #CaroleBaskin #DonLewis #Netflix #Tiger #BigCatRescue #JoeExotic #TigerKingNetflix #HCSO pic.twitter.com/LHoJcBZVOI
— Chad Chronister (@ChadChronister) March 30, 2020
Last week, Baskin called the allegations that she murdered Lewis “salacious and sensational” in a blog post.
“When the directors of the Netflix documentary Tiger King came to us five years ago they said they wanted to make the big cat version of Blackfish (the documentary that exposed abuse at SeaWorld) that would expose the misery caused by the rampant breeding of big cat cubs for cub petting exploitation and the awful life the cats lead in roadside zoos and back yards if they survive,” Baskin wrote.
“There are not words for how disappointing it is to see that the docuseries 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.”
Two months before Lewis’s disappearance, he filed for an order of protection against Baskin and alleged that she had threatened to kill him.
Baskin denied Lewis’s claim and the request was denied.
“[Tiger King] 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’s post read. “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. They did not care about truth. The unsavory lies are better for getting viewers.”
Once Lewis was declared dead in 2002, Baskins inherited millions of dollars and their animal sanctuary.
Exotic claimed that Baskin had killed Lewis and used the meat grinder to feed him to the wild cats.
Baskin denies the claims and has never been charged.
Tiger King co-producer Eric Goode defended the series, saying Baskin openly discussed “her personal life, her childhood, abuse from her first and second husband, the disappearance of her ex, Don Lewis.”
“She knew that this was not just about… it’s not a Blackfish because of the things she spoke about,” he told the LA Times. “She certainly wasn’t coerced. The other thing I would say about all these people is that there was a lack of intellectual curiosity to really go and understand or even see these animals in the wild. Certainly, Carole really had no interest in seeing an animal in the wild.
“The lack of education, frankly, was really interesting – how they had built their own little utopias and really were only interested in that world and the rules they had created.”
Goode’s co-producer Rebecca Chaiklin added that the producers were “completely forthright with the characters.”
“With any project that goes on for five years, things evolve and change, and we followed it as any good storyteller does,” she said. “We could have never known when we started this project that it was going to land where it did.”
Goode is still in contact with Exotic, who is currently in prison serving a 22-year sentence for hiring a hitman to murder Baskin.
“Joe has called me quite a few times over the last few days and weeks,” Goode told the publication. “One, he is absolutely ecstatic about the series and the idea of being famous. He’s absolutely thrilled. I think he is trying to be an advocate for — no surprise — criminal justice reform. He is in a cage and of course, he’s gonna say that he now recognizes what he did to these animals.
“With Joe, we have empathy for him, but at the same time, he’s someone who really knows what to say at the right moment. I take it with a big grain of salt when he says he is now apologetic for keeping animals.”
Chalke said “you can hardly talk to him without mentioning the amount of press he’s getting.”
“Having kept in pretty close touch with him while he’s been in a horrible county prison, this has raised his spirits. Joe definitely did some horrible things to his animals. He was very abusive to them and he shot five tigers, no question about it. But what has happened to him has also been hard,” Chalke said.
Several celebrities have shared their thoughts on the Netflix docuseries since the release of Tiger King.
Cardi B became a fan of Exotic and tweeted: “Bout to start a gofundme account for Joe. He shall be free.”
Bout to start a gofundme account for Joe .He shall be free.
— iamcardib (@iamcardib) March 28, 2020
She also asked her followers, “Who you think is more wrong? Narcissist joe? Or Greedy Carol? And why?”
Who you think is more wrong ? Narcissist joe ? Or Greedy Carol ? And why ?
— iamcardib (@iamcardib) March 27, 2020
Kim Kardashian also tweeted about Tiger King, saying, “It is crazy!”
Has anyone seen Tiger King on Netflix?!?! It is crazy!!!!
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) March 22, 2020
“Wow the amount of texts I’ve gotten about Tiger King since I tweeted about it all have mentioned their belief that Carol killed her husband! What are your thoughts? Do you think Carol killed him?” Kardashian added.
Wow the amount of texts I’ve gotten about Tiger King since I tweeted about it all have mentioned their belief that Carol killed her husband! What are your thoughts? Do you think Carol killed him?
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) March 23, 2020
Jared Leto said he has “DEF” worn a Baskin-like outfit on tour.
Now I DEF wore this on tour pic.twitter.com/GhCRu434df
— JARED LETO (@JaredLeto) March 27, 2020
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