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What happened to Carole Baskin's husband Don Lewis? We look at Tiger King's mystery

The mysteries keep on coming in Tiger King 2.

Don Lewis in Tiger King 2
Netflix
Published: Wednesday, 17th November 2021 at 5:50 pm

Netflix hit docuseries Tiger King returned to our screens this morning, with the true-crime show checking back in with big cat enthusiasts Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin after the events of season one.

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One of the biggest mysteries from season one that captivated viewers was the disappearance of Carole Baskin's husband Don Lewis in August 1997.

While the Big Cat Rescue founder is now remarried, Tiger King looked at her missing former husband Lewis, who she wed in 1991 at the age of 20 when he was 42.

Lewis's van was found at a private airport two days after he went missing and while police investigated the case, his body was never found and he was declared dead in 2002.

The second season of Tiger King looks at additional theories around his disappearance, from the possibility that Lewis could still be alive to other characters that may have wanted him dead.

Read on for everything we know about Don Lewis's disappearance and the theories around it.

Theory 1: Don Lewis's plane crashed

The theory around Lewis's disappearance that many, including Carole Baskin, subscribe to is that the big cat owner crashed his plane on the way to Costa Rica and went down over the ocean.

While Lewis's pilot's licence had been suspended at the time, Baskin said that he would frequently fly to Costa Rica and this theory would explain why none of his credit cards were used after his disappearance and why his body wasn't found.

Carole Baskin in Tiger King
Carole Baskin in Tiger King YouTube/Netflix

In a Reddit thread, posted on 15th November, Baskin wrote that she believes Lewis crashed a small plane into the Gulf as "he couldn't file a flight plan and had to take off from closed airports to evade detection" due to his lack of a pilot's licence.

"He had to fly under 200 feet to stay off the radar which means he would typically fly out over the Gulf because the air is smoother there, whereas over land there are up and down drafts that will crash you at the height."

Theory 2: Don Lewis was murdered in Florida

The first season of Tiger King looks at whether Don Lewis was killed in Florida, with his daughter Donna suggesting that he may have been fed to the cats at the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary.

She is quoted by the 1998 People magazine article as saying: “We were upset that the cops didn’t test the DNA on the meat grinder.”

Unsurprisingly, Joe Exotic was keen to suggest that Baskin killed her husband, but he isn’t the only person who suspected her. She inherited millions once he was declared dead, and Lewis had filed a restraining order against her two months before his disappearance. Lewis’s children, from a previous marriage, claim he had told them he was about to leave her. Baskin has repeatedly and vehemently denied these accusations.

Theory 3: Don Lewis is still alive in Costa Rica

The second season of Tiger King explores the theory that Don Lewis could still be alive in Costa Rica, where he was reportedly planning on moving indefinitely.

In episode two, Lewis's lawyer Joseph Fritz tells the documentary that he learned that there were "federal reports of [Lewis] alive and well in Costa Rica".

The documentary then produces a Homeland Security document, which reads: "Lewis owns property in Costa Rica and has travelled regularly. In the latter part of August 1997, Lewis’s wife Carole filed a missing persons report.

"[Redacted] has learned that Don Lewis is currently alive and well in Costa Rica. Lewis has loaned money to various individuals and could live quite well. Lewis could reside in Costa Rica indefinitely."

Later in the episode, Don's associate Rey Rodriguez reveals that Lewis had plans to move to Costa Rica, saying: "He talked about moving to Costa Rica and starting over afresh.

"Don told me he was there to get away from Carole and so he put investments into my name," before adding that Lewis was in contact with a gang who forged passports and could have started a new life under a different name.

Theory 4: Don Lewis was killed by shady business contacts

Another line of investigation Tiger King 2 looks into is the possibility that Don Lewis was murdered by shady individuals he'd had business dealing with either in Costa Rica or the US.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the night before Lewis went missing, he had told former handyman Kenny Farr that he was going to pull off the "slickest thing he'd ever done", while in Tiger King 2, Lewis's chauffeur in Costa Rica, Alex Mora, tells the documentary that Lewis had been in trouble with some "bad men".

"During his last few trips, Don looked worried. He told me he was in danger. He said it was over money. He had some problems with some people in the US. They were really bad men."

Theory 5: Don Lewis was killed by the families of girls he had affairs with

Tiger King 2 sheds light on what Don Lewis was like, with some of his associates in Costa Rica suggesting that he'd been killed by the families of girls he was romantically involved with.

"He always needed a beautiful woman next to him," Alex Mora told the documentary. "I would bring girls to the house for him...but he liked them young and beautiful."

Meanwhile, Lewis's associate Rey Rodriguez added: "I told Don, 'Be careful what you're doing. These little girls have family. People will find out and they'll kill you for that.'"

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