Popularity of Netflix's 'Tiger King' prompts sheriff to ask for leads in 1997 cold case

The Hillsborough County sheriff jumped on the show's success to ask for new info in the disappearance of Jack "Don" Lewis, Carole Baskin's former husband.
Carole Baskin in a still from "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness" on Netflix.
Carole Baskin in a still photo from "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness" on Netflix.Netflix

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By Doha Madani

A Florida sheriff is jumping on the popularity of the Netflix series "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness" to ask for new leads in the 1997 disappearance of Jack Donald "Don" Lewis.

The true crime docuseries, which premiered on Netflix this month, revolves around the life of Oklahoma zookeeper Joseph Exotic and the events that led him to plan a murder-for-hire plot against animal rights activist Carole Baskin. The show also explores Baskin's life, including the disappearance of her husband Don Lewis in 1997.

"Tiger King" and its strange but true story has fascinated the internet, its success seemingly fueled by captive audiences sheltering at home during the coronavirus pandemic, even catching the attention of celebrities like Kim Kardashian West.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is taking advantage of the show's popularity to ask for new 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," Chronister wrote.

Lewis, a multimillionaire, and Baskin were married and running a wildlife sanctuary in Tampa when he vanished in August 1997. His van was found at a Pasco County airport with the keys on the floor, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

"Tiger King" prominently features rumors, spread by Joe Exotic and others, about Baskin and the disappearance of Lewis.

Baskin, who reported her husband missing, told authorities that Lewis asked her to help prepare cars for transport to Costa Rica the night before he vanished.

Baskin denied the rumors that she was involved in Lewis' disappearance both in the "Tiger King" series and in a blog post on her Big Cat Rescue website.

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"Don was not easy to live with and like most couples, we had our moments," Baskin wrote. "But I never threatened him and I certainly had nothing to do with his disappearance."

Baskin, who has since remarried, has never been charged in relation to Lewis' disappearance, and the case remains open.