• Unspeakable Times

What Happened To Carole Baskin's Husband?

On August 18, 1997, Don Lewis left his Tampa, FL, home and disappeared forever. But what happened to Carole Baskin's husband? The police found his car at a private airport, but that didn't stop Lewis's family from pointing the finger at his second wife, Carole Baskin. As police scoured the 69-acre wildlife sanctuary Lewis and Baskin owned, they found no traces of the missing person. The search even went international, with Florida police officers flying south to Costa Rica to look for Lewis. 

For decades, the case languished with no new evidence - until 2020, when the Don Lewis cold case hit the headlines again thanks to the popularity of the Netflix true crime series Tiger King. But did Carole really off her husband and feed him to the tigers? Or was there more to the story?

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  • Don Lewis's Car Was Found At An Airport Two Days After He Was Reported Missing

    The day after Don Lewis disappeared, his car was found at a local airport. However, police found no record of Lewis getting on a plane or leaving the country. Although Lewis had two passports, neither was flagged crossing an international border.

    Still, the Sheriff's Office sent detectives to Costa Rica to search for Lewis. There, they met two of Lewis's security guards, who gave vastly different stories on when they'd last seen him. 

    The sheriff concluded that Lewis had "shady business dealings" in Costa Rica. 

  • Photo: Tiger King / Netflix

    Efforts To Find Don Lewis In Costa Rica Were Unsuccessful

    Why did Don Lewis's will contain a clause for his disappearance? Carole Baskin claims it was because of his dealings with the Costa Rican mafia. 

    "Don had told me about people going to Costa Rica and disappearing," Baskin wrote in 2020. He'd been lending people money in the country, so Baskin wanted the will to cover disappearance. "It made perfect sense in this situation," she argued.

    When police visited Costa Rica, they faced new obstacles. The sheriff admits, "He had some business dealings with some extremely shady people down there, almost equivalent to a Costa Rican Mafia."

    In addition, the police found evidence that Lewis was paying people for sex in Costa Rica. "There were people upset because he was having sexual encounters with younger females down there. Some of their parents were upset."

    But the investigation in Costa Rica didn't turn up conclusive evidence on Lewis's case.

  • Photo: Tiger King / Netflix

    Two Months Before His Disappearance, Don Lewis Filed A Domestic Violence Report Against Carole Baskin

    Two months before he disappeared, Lewis filed a domestic violence report against his wife. The document said Carole Baskin threatened to shoot Lewis. 

    However, the judge found no grounds for a protective order. "The worst thing I ever did," Baskin said, "was threaten to report him to the IRS."

    In her defense, Baskin claimed her husband filed for the order because she hauled his junk collection off the property whenever he visited Costa Rica. "Don tried calling the police to get them to stop me. They told him he would need a restraining order."

  • Don Lewis's Disappearance Helped Carole Baskin's Business

    For six years, Lewis and Baskin ran an exotic cat sanctuary called Wildlife on Easy Street. In the 1990s, visitors could stay on site and snuggle with tamed cats. 

    For $75 a night, guests could choose a bobcat, cougar, or serval for their cabin stay. “You’d pay that much at Holiday Inn,” Carole told People, “with no entertainment.”

    After Lewis's disappearance, Baskin found her big cat B&B booked solid. Crime buffs flocked to Wildlife on Easy Street looking for clues in the missing person case.