The fate of Tiger King star Carole Baskin’s former husband is being debated online following the reemergence of a report suggesting he was found alive in Costa Rica.
During a recently resurfaced 2021 interview on British television, Baskin said that Tiger King 2 “produced” a letter from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that claimed Don Lewis was found abroad “alive and well” as of 2002. Lewis went missing in 1997 and was declared legally dead in 2002. He would be 84 years old if he were still alive.
“They said that my husband, Don Lewis, is alive and well in Costa Rica,” Baskin said during the interview on ITV’s This Morning. “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.”
Some fans of the Netflix documentary series have accused Baskin of killing Lewis, with a number of theories tying her to the disappearance emerging following the show’s debut in 2020. The currently imprisoned “Tiger King” himself, Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado, has made similar allegations. There is no evidence that proves Baskin was involved.
The claim that Lewis could still be alive sparked an online frenzy Wednesday following the publication of a Cosmopolitan article about her This Morning interview.
Baskin’s interview largely flew under the radar at the time it aired, although it was covered in a November 2021 E! News article that pointed out her comments may have been in response to a document that was shown as part of Tiger King 2 and identified as being from DHS. Baskin was not involved in the making of the sequel series.
A 2021 statement on Baskin’s website concerning Tiger King 2 includes an image purportedly of the letter in question. The document, marked for “official use only” and “law enforcement sensitive,” says that a detective with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office had been informed that Lewis was “currently alive and well in Costa Rica.”
The letter also claims that Lewis “has loaned money to various individuals in Costa Rica and could live quite well on the interest earned on those loans,” allowing him to “reside in Costa Rica indefinitely.”
Although no date is visible on the letter, Baskin claimed that because the letter was marked as being from DHS, Lewis must have been alive in 2002 or later, since the department was formed in November 2002.
“For everyone who still wants to believe that Carole killed Don, then please explain to us why you think armchair detectives … are better informed than the Special Agent in Charge at the FBI in this Homeland Security Document which says Don Lewis is currently alive and well in Costa Rica,” the statement on Baskin’s website reads.
Other than the purported letter, there does not appear to be any evidence to corroborate the claim that Lewis is still alive. Newsweek had not independently verified the authenticity of the letter at the time of publication.
In November 2021, Corporal Moises Garcia of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reportedly said that Baskin had repeatedly refused to cooperate with a reopened investigation into Lewis’ disappearance.
“During the filming of Tiger King, detailed efforts were made to find Don Lewis,” Philips said. “They failed. He is not alive. The 2021 report by Carole Baskin was further unsupported allegation. It’s being republished as if it has veracity.”
Newsweek has reached out to DHS and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for comment.