Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said last week his office is receiving scores of new leads each week in the disappearance of a local man thanks to a new Netflix documentary.
In an online news conference, Chronister said several leads have come into his office on the disappearance of Jack “Don” Lewis, the first husband of Carole Baskin, owner of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. Baskin and her tiger rescue are featured heavily in the Netflix documentary Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. The series, which focuses upon Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage and his conviction on Federal charges of animal abuse and murder for hire, has met with unprecedented success in recent weeks.
Though he says his office has received no substantial tips as yet, he confirmed a meeting among several of the office’s investigators, who retrieved several large binders of documents related to the case. The sheriff assigned a detective supervisor to handle the leads streaming into the office as well.
Per Chronister, the last significant activity in the case occurred nine years ago, when Baskin was invited to take a polygraph test. Baskin declined, said Chronister, citing advice from counsel that such a test would not do anything to vindicate her in Lewis’s disappearance.
Lewis, who was a native of Dade City, married Baskin in 1991 and co-founded Wildlife on Easy Street (now called Big Cat Rescue) the next year. According to Baskin, Lewis made frequent trips to Costa Rica during their marriage, which began to sour due to his alleged sex addiction. Lewis attempted to file a restraining order against Baskin in the summer of 1997, but the court did not grant it. He was last seen in August of that year departing for another trip to Costa Rica. Lewis has not been heard from since, and he was declared legally dead in 2002. Baskin maintains her innocence in Lewis’s disappearance.
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