She must be lion! Tiger King star Carole Baskin’s claim her ex-husband is alive is shot down by sheriff – who said he still has not been seen or heard from since 1997

  • Baskin’s claims hinge on an unverified letter from the Department of Homeland Security that was featured in the second season of Netflix’s Tiger King 
  • The document appears to say that Don Lewis was located in Costa Rica and is ‘alive and well,’ despite being missing without a trace for more than two decades 
  • Employees of the Florida sheriff’s office who oversee Lewis’ missing person file say they never received confirmation from DHS that he is alive 

The shocking claim that Tiger King star Carole Baskin’s long-assumed-dead ex-husband Don Lewis is actually alive was a surprising development in the case, particularly to the Florida sheriff’s office that is still actively searching for him.

In a televised interview from months ago, Baskin claimed her ex-husband, who was declared legally dead in 2002 after disappearing years before, is still alive.

The claim that he is ‘alive and well in Costa Rica’ has been called into question by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which remains in charge of the hunt for Lewis and still has an open missing persons case for him.

Big Cat rescuer Carole Baskin (left) with her first husband Don Lewis, prior to his mysterious 1997 disappearance

The unverified Department of Homeland Security letter claiming Don Lewis remains alive and well and is living in Costa Rica. He was 59 when he disappeared and would be 84 now

Jack Don Lewis remains listed as a ‘missing endangered adult,’ who on August 18, 1997 ‘left his families [sic] residence and has not been seen or heard from since.’

The New York Post reported on Thursday that the sheriff’s office largely dismissed Baskin’s remarks that her ex is alive and thriving in the tropics.

A spokesperson for the office said that they had not heard anything about Lewis’ whereabouts, despite Baskin’s claim that a Department of Homeland Security official had been in touch with her ex and subsequently informed the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s public information office, Fentress Fountain, said: ‘We have not received any communication from our federal partners that confirms the location of missing person Mr. Don Lewis.’

‘The investigation into Don Lewis’ disappearance remains a priority for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, as do all missing person cases.’

Baskin said that she had not herself known about the letter from DHS until season two of Tiger King aired and briefly included an undated and unverified Homeland Security letter that read in part, ‘Don Lewis is currently alive and well in Costa Rica.’

At the time the claim was first generated, the lead detective on the case – Cpl. Moises Garcia – told the Tampa Bay Times that the case remains open, despite the apparent letter from DHS.

‘We continue to push hard on this case … We still have some avenues. Not a week goes by that we don’t have our hand in this case,’ he said.

He told the outlet that DHS had recently assisted the sheriff’s office by ‘running down leads in Costa Rica,’ but did not confirm that those leads led to reports that Lewis was found ‘alive and well.’

Baskin and Lewis in Tiger King season 2. In 1997, he left his residence and was never seen by friends or family members again

A UK TV interview from 2021 in which Carole Baskin claimed her legally dead husband Don Lewis is alive and living in Costa Rica recently resurfaced

Joe Exotic (pictured), whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is now serving a 21 year prison sentence for hiring two hitmen to kill Baskin

Two years after Don Lewis was declared legally dead, Carole remarried Howard Baskin, her current husband

An attorney for Baskin’s currently-imprisoned nemesis Joe Exotic also slammed the claim that Lewis is in fact still walking among us.

‘He is not alive,’ wrote John Phillips, sharing a link to coverage of Baskin’s claim.

‘During the filming of Tiger King, detailed efforts were made to find Don Lewis. They all failed. He is now alive,’ he wrote.

Lewis was 59 when he went missing, he would be 84 now if he is still alive. In his missing person file, he is listed as being 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds.

Several years after his disappearance, Baskin went on to wed her current husband, Howard.

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