Carole Baskin, the animal activist founder of Big Cat Rescue who starred on Netflix’s hit show Tiger King, refused to take a polygraph test when police requested it as part of their investigations into the mysterious disappearance of her husband Jack “Don” Lewis in 1997.
The Netflix show Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness followed the rivalry between Carole Baskin and Joe “Exotic” Schreibvogel (aka Joseph Maldonado-Passage), the owner of the G.W. Zoo (Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park) in Oklahoma.
The series also touched on the circumstances of the mysterious disappearance of Don Lewis.
According to Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, Lewis, born April 30, 1938, was last seen in August 1997, and police investigations have been unable to discover any clues about his whereabouts.
Lewis traveled to Costa Rica before his disappearance. His vehicle was found at an airport in Pasco County. Investigators conducted a thorough search of Baskin’s animal sanctuary that she founded with Lewis. They also traveled to Costa Rica in search of clues, but they couldn’t uncover evidence to solve the case.
Investigators still haven’t found Lewis’ remains or unearthed any significant clues about what happened to him. It seems as if Lewis simply vanished into thin air.
Lewis’s family alleged that Carole Baskin fed him to her tigers
Following Lewis’s mysterious disappearance and the inability of the police to unravel the mystery, one of Lewis’s children, Donna Pettis, told PEOPLE they believed Baskin might have fed him to her tigers.
“It’s a perfect scenario to dispose of someone,” Pettis reportedly said. “We were upset that the cops didn’t test the DNA on the meat grinder.”
But Carole has denied allegations that she knows about Lewis’s disappearance.
Regarding the allegation that she fed Lewis to her tigers, she reportedly told PEOPLE:
“My tigers eat meat; they don’t eat people. There would be bones and remains of my husband out there. I’m amazed that people would even think such a thing.”
Big Cat Rescue worked w directors of Tiger King in good faith & its sensationalism is disappointing. We understand concerns & remain focused on our mission. We don’t respond to allegations or hateful statements, but monitor for questions about efforts to save the majestic animals
— Big Cat Rescue (@BigCatRescue) March 25, 2020
The allegation against Baskin has led to widespread rumors and speculation about her role in Lewis’s disappearance.
— bernadette lewis (@bernsy) March 29, 2020
20 reasons why I think Carole Baskin killed Don Lewis. (again this is just me) pic.twitter.com/0CokUMadyK
— Sneha Ojha (@osnehaa) March 31, 2020
Carole Baskin refused to take polygraph test
During a recent press conference, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister revealed that Carole Baskin refused to take a polygraph test when police asked her to during their investigation into the case.
He said Baskin declined to take the test, saying that her attorney advised her not to take it. He said Baskin argued it was pointless for her to take the test because “it wouldn’t vindicate her or prohibit the Sheriff’s Department from filing charges at a later date.”
The sheriff explained that Carole was the only person they asked who refused to take the test as part of the police investigation.
“We did offer Carole an opportunity to take a polygraph and everyone else has agreed and she declined. She said her attorney told her it wouldn’t vindicate her of anything so she declined to be interviewed.”
He also revealed that Lewis had “shady business dealings” in Costa Rica and a girlfriend there.
The sheriff said they investigated Lewis’s will and found “there’s certainly some suspicion surrounding the will” and that Lewis’s family “received no inheritance.”
“We have looked at the will… there’s certainly some suspicion surrounding the will. One of the people who testified that the will was certified and that she saw people sign the will, she changed her story later on at a later date.”
Police have asked for new leads in Lewis’s disappearance
Monsters and Critics reported that Sheriff Chad Chronister recently took to Twitter to ask Tiger King fans for help in solving the cold case of Lewis’s disappearance.
Police authorities declared Lewis officially dead in 2002, five years after his disappearance, and since then, no one has been charged in the case. But after Netflix released Tiger King, the authorities thought they could use the popularity of the show and the awareness it has created about Lewis’s disappearance to get new leads in the case.
Since @netflix and #Covid19 #Quarantine has made #TigerKing all the rage, I figured it was a good time to ask for new leads. #CaroleBaskin #DonLewis #Netflix #Tiger #BigCatRescue #JoeExotic #TigerKingNetflix #HCSO pic.twitter.com/LHoJcBZVOI
— Chad Chronister (@ChadChronister) March 30, 2020
‘A cold case is hot again thanks to Netflix's Tiger King: What Happened to Carole Baskin’s former Husband, Don Lewis? https://t.co/acgtdSscJX
— Audra Burch (@abscribe) March 31, 2020
Police authorities asked anyone who has information that could help them solve the cold case to call 813-247-8200.