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Carole Baskin's Claim That Ex Don Lewis Is Alive Is Overturned By Sheriff

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Carole Baskin’s startling claim that her long-presumed dead ex-husband Don Lewis was actually found alive is news for the Florida Sheriff’s Office, who are still looking for him.

The “Tiger King” star claimed in a now-viral interview on British TV that her ex “is alive and well in Costa Rica”.

However, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which is in charge of the manhunt, still has an open missing person case on Lewis, even after he was legally declared dead in 2002.

Don Lewis with then-wife Carole Baskin and one of their big cats.
Carole Baskin’s claim that her ex-husband Don Lewis was found long ago alive is news for the Florida Sheriff’s Office, who are still looking for him.

Jack Don Lewis is still listed as an “Endangered Adult” who on August 18, 1997 “left his families”. [sic] residence and has not been seen or heard from since.”

In a statement given to The Post on Thursday, the Hillsborough County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office took down Baskin’s new viral comments.

A spokesperson confirmed that the office had heard nothing to the contrary from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), despite Baskin’s explosive claim on TV that the department had reached out to her ex and shared the news with county officials. from Hillsborough.

“We have not received any communications from our federal partners that confirm the location of the missing person, Mr. Don Lewis,” said Fentress Fountain, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.

“The investigation into the disappearance of Don Lewis remains a top priority for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, as do all missing persons cases.”

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office missing person alert for Lewis on its website.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office still has an open missing persons case for Lewis.
Hillsborough County Sheriff

The department could not immediately confirm this to The Post on Thursday morning.

In a statement to The Post on Wednesday about the resurfaced clip, Baskin also admitted that he was unaware of the alleged reveal until the sequel to the series was broadcast in November 2021.

At the time, the lead detective on the Lewis case, Cpl. Moises Garcia, told the Tampa Bay Times that the case was still open — despite the apparent letter produced by DHS.

“We continue to insist on this case. … We still have some ways to go. Not a week goes by without us having our hand in this case,” he said.

The investigator told the paper that DHS had recently “assisted” the sheriff’s office by “running through leads in Costa Rica,” but did not confirm any reports that Lewis was found “alive and well.”

Carole Baskin with one of her tigers.
Carole Baskin confirmed to The Post this week that she believes Lewis was found alive.
Mirrorpix / MEGA

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Joe Exotic – Baskin’s nemesis who has long accused her of feeding her ex to tigers at her Big Cat Rescue – also blasted the claim that Lewis was alive and well.

“He is not alive,” John Phillips claimed on Facebook when sharing The Post’s story about Baskin’s allegations.

“Carole Baskin’s 2021 report was yet another unsupported claim. It is being republished as if it were true. There isn’t,” said Exotic’s lawyer, who is serving a 21-year prison sentence for having hired an assassin to kill his rival.

“The Tiger King story is full of lies, deceit and misdirection,” he wrote of the imprisoned viral star, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage.

Photo by Joe Exotic.
A lawyer for Joe Exotic, who is serving 21 years in prison for hiring a hitman to kill Baskin, said Lewis “is not alive”.

The lawyer insisted that Baskin’s 2021 claim – which she also shared on her website – was “false and designed to bring more attention to Carole Baskin”.

Exotic also shared the statement on its Facebook page – as well as a rap song accusing Baskin of feeding Lewis to his big cats.

Don Lewis with one of his big cats.

Joe Exotic has long suggested that his rival fed his ex his big cats.

Don Lewis with a big cat.

Lewis was legally declared dead in 2002.


Don Lewis looking at a big cat.

The sheriff’s office is still looking for Lewis, despite Baskin’s claim that he was found alive in Costa Rica.


Lewis was 59 years old when he disappeared and would now be 84. He is listed in his missing persons file as 5ft 10 and 170lbs when he disappeared from his Tampa home. His ex has since remarried, having married Howard Baskin in 2004.

Neither DHS nor Netflix responded to The Post’s requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Nika Shakhnazarovan