Carole Baskin says Don Lewis has been found safe in Costa Rica. Police say he never made it out of the state alive.

Fatim Hemraj
Carole Baskin and Don LewisWinkNews

You may or may not already be familiar with Carole Baskin, an animal rights activist who appeared on the Netflix docuseries Tiger King alongside her arch-nemesis, Oklahoma zoo operator, Joe Exotic. The show ended with Joe in prison for 17 counts of animal abuse and 2 counts of murder-for-hire after he paid a man to kill Carole — twice.

Both became household names virtually overnight but while Carole ended up an internet sensation with an appearance on Dancing With The Stars, Joe ended up a convicted felon in a prison cell with a 22-year sentence. He is currently fighting cancer in a Federal Medical Center.
Joe ExoticUSA Today

But the million-dollar question wasn’t whether Joe truly hired a hit on Carole. It’s whether she had anything to do with the disappearance of her first husband, millionaire real estate mogul and former licensed pilot, Don Lewis.

Carole and Don met in 1981 while they were both married. Ten years later, they divorced their spouses, tied the knot and opened Big Cat Rescue, a Tampa-based animal sanctuary. Their decade-long marriage was fraught with arguments over infidelity and Don’s insistence to treat the sanctuary as a business investment rather than the non-profit organization it is today.

The disagreements ended when Don seemingly vanished into thin air, never to be seen again. On August 18, 1997, he left for work at 6 in the morning and never came back. Carole reported him missing the very next day and his car was found at a private airstrip two days later. Don was declared legally dead in 2002 and Carole re-married in 2004.

Carole told authorities Don was likely in Costa Rica where he owned property. She claimed he often travelled there to engage in extra-marital affairs but many believed otherwise after the premiere of Tiger King in 2020.

Joe’s tirade against Carole included accusations she murdered. Don’s ex-wife and children agreed after it was revealed he filed a restraining order against Carole a month before his disappearance, claiming she threatened his life.

The show reignited interest in the case and despite the fact authorities couldn't find anything tying her to Don’s disappearance, Carole was named the prime suspect. True crime internet sleuths have accused her of being a cold-blooded murderer ever since.
Carole BaskinNME

Carole refused to cooperate with authorities for years but she didn’t mind spewing theories about her former husband’s sudden vanishing on a Reddit AMA (Ask me Anything) thread last week. When asked point-blank what she thought happened to Don, Carole wrote he likely died in a plane crash.

Don loved to fly and was looking to buy ultralights and experimental planes. I believe Don crashed a small experimental plane or ultralight into the Gulf for a number of reasons.
He wasn’t licensed to fly, yet did all the time. He couldn’t file a flight plan and had to take off from closed airports to evade detection. 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. Since phone records indicated he was planning to go to Texas, and his van was found at a small private airstrip and we have never found Don or wreckage, I think this was the most likely scenario.

Now, Carole claims Homeland Security recently contacted her to let her know Don Lewis is very much alive and well, living under a new identity. Carole claims there are documents stating that fact, but apparently, no one other than her has seen them. Meanwhile, Tampa-based investigators insist her claim is “all noise” and they doubt Don ever made it out of the state alive.

They said that my husband Don Lewis is alive and well in Costa Rica and yet all this hay has been made about me having something to do with his disappearance, when Homeland Security has known where he is, at least since back then.
I didn’t think that he was capable of supporting himself. He took about a million dollars down into Costa Rica and I had agreed to let him do that so he could prove to himself that he could make a living. And when we recovered what we could out of that years later, it was only about $80,000 because the investments he had made were so bad. So I don’t know how it is that Homeland Security says he’s alive and well in Costa Rica but I’m glad to hear it.

So, did she or didn’t she? We still don’t know. Once again, it’s Carole Baskin’s word against the world.

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