Don Lewis

Tiger King: everything you need to know about Don Lewis' disappearance

What really happened to Carole Baskin's husband?

Emmy Griffiths

Viewers were fascinated and horrified in equal measure at Netflix's new documentary Tiger King, which looks at rival big cat enclosures in the US - but there was one mystery in the show that truly caught their attention. While the series primarily focused on Joe Exotic, a zoo owner who went to prison for a murder-for-hire plot against Carole Baskin, the latter was also at the centre of a murder investigation following the disappearance of her husband, Don Lewis, in 1997. Here's everything you need to know about the disappearance of millionaire businessman, and Carole Baskin's husband, Don Lewis. 

Who was Don Lewis? 

Don Lewis was a millionaire businessman who co-founded the tiger sanctuary Wildlife on Easy Street with Carole. After meeting her, the pair both left their respective marriages and tied the knot in 1991. However, according to the documentary, they were having marital troubles in the months before his disappearance due to extramarital affairs on his part, and he had vaguely told a friend about plans to 'pull something off' ahead of his disappearance. 

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Don Lewis' disappearance in 1997 

As the documentary explained, Don, who was 59 at the time, vanished without a trace in 1997. While his van was found at a private airport, there was no evidence that he had flown a plane, and no record that he had made it to Costa Rica, where Carole claimed he had told her he was travelling to the day before he vanished. She had also revealed that she had been worried about his mental state at the time, as he had become increasingly forgetful. 

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Carole and Don married in 1991

Speaking about her marriage to Don, Carole previously told Vanity Fair: "We gave [authorities] all of the information that they needed to go look at the court records and to see that I always dealt fairly and honestly with Don's daughters. He had been my best friend from the time that I was 19. I lost him in 1997, so talking about that turns up a lot of painful memories." 

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Don's family suspected Carole of being involved in his disappearance 

She also wrote that she was hurt by her portrayal in Tiger King, in which several members of Don's family state that they believe she was involved in his murder. On her website, she wrote: "It 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. 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 unsavoury lies are better for getting viewers." 

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Don went missing in 1997

Carole added: "As Gladys and the daughters did everything they could to make life difficult for me after Don disappeared, they spread this rumour that they thought I had ground Don up and fed him to the cats and the media loved it. The meat grinder shown in the video was enormous. Our meat grinder was one of those little tabletop, hand crank things like you’d have in your kitchen at home."

READ: Fans of Netflix's Tiger King are convinced they have solved mystery of Don Lewis' disappearance

Was Don Lewis' disappearance ever solved? 

There was not enough evidence to support any theories, and so Don Lewis' disappearance continues to be a cold case, even though the businessman was legally declared dead in 2002. Speaking about the trail running cold, Hillsborough Sheriff Sergeant John Marsicano told Tampa Bay Times: "The investigation has not given us a direction on where to look for clues. I wish we had a whole lot more. We have looked in every conceivable direction."

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