Investigation Discovery is rounding off two nights of specials on former zoo owner turned attempted murderer Joseph Maldonado-Passage with an expose on the events that shaped his life and caused him to turn to murder.
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, commonly known by his stage name, Joe Exotic, reveled in the eccentric showman image he built around himself. He described himself affectionately as “a gay, gun-toting cowboy with a mullet.”
Joe Exotic and his brother, Garold Wayne, both shared a love of animals, and they decided to channel these emotions into purchasing a pet store in Texas in 1989. However, tragedy struck eight years later when Garold Wayne was killed in a car crash.
Joe Exotic set up zoo as memorial to his brother
The family won money through a settlement following the crash, and they agreed to let Joe Exotic put the cash towards opening up a zoo in his brother’s memory at Wynnewood, Oklahoma. The Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park, known as the G.W. Zoo, became very popular in the 2000s, and Joe Exotic became a local celebrity.
However, his actions when it came to breeding and selling exotic animals brought the attention of animal rights activists. He had many detractors, but it was his long-term feud with Carole Baskin, owner of the Big Cat Rescue in Florida, that put him on the wrong side of the law.
Joe Exotic was left distraught when Baskin won a $1 million copyright infringement lawsuit against him. Baskin demanded the money in assets, which began to threaten his livelihood. Around the same time, Joe Exotic was also left devastated by the death of his husband, Travis Maldonado, who shot himself.
The zookeeper became increasingly obsessed with Baskin and made numerous death threats against her in videos, which he then posted online. His anger at Baskin, coupled with his desire to be the showman, led law enforcement to take an interest in him.
Author and law enforcement expert, Derrick Levasseur, stated On ID, his belief that Joe Exotic’s downfall stemmed primarily from his need for power and fame. Levasseur argued that Joe was doing just fine flying under the radar, but his ego just wouldn’t let him keep a low profile, and he had to draw attention to himself.
Joe Exotic tried to have Carole Baskin killed
In 2017, this former police officer and police chief of Eastvale, Texas, turned to murder when he paid employee Allen Glover $3,000 to kill Carole Baskin. And in December of that same year, he was covertly recorded by an undercover FBI agent discussing plans to murder Baskin.
In 2019, Joe Exotic was found guilty of attempting to murder Carole Baskin. He was also charged with killing five tigers and selling cubs across state lines, which is forbidden under the Endangered Species Act. He was sentenced to 22-years in prison.
Joe Exotic: Before He Was King airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.