TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Florida sheriff is asking for new leads in the disappearance of the former husband of a big cat sanctuary owner featured in the new Netflix series “Tiger King.”
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister posted on his personal Twitter account Monday that the popularity of the seven-part documentary made it a good time to ask for new leads in the 1997 disappearance of Jack “Don” Lewis. He was married to Carole Baskin, who runs Big Cat Rescue near Tampa.
Lewis went missing shortly before a planned business trip to Costa Rica, investigators said shortly after his disappearance. His van was found near a Pasco County airport. Deputies searched the wildlife sanctuary he ran with his wife, but he was never found in Florida nor Costa Rica.
“Tiger King” tells the story of an Oklahoma zookeeper named Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” who was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison this year after being convicted in an unsuccessful murder-for-hire plot against Baskin. He was upset that Baskin, an outspoken critic of him and his zoo, won a million-dollar civil judgment against him.
Maldonado-Passage isn’t giving up: From behind bars, he filed a federal lawsuit seeking nearly $94 million in damages, claiming among other things that he was convicted based on false and perjured testimony. He also claims he was singled out for prosecution because he “is an openly gay male with the largest collection of generic tigers and cross breeds.”
The documentary extensively covered Maldonado-Passage’s repeated accusations that Baskin killed her husband and possibly fed him to her tigers. Baskin has never been charged with any crime and released a statement refuting the accusations made in the series.
“Tiger King” quickly became Netfix’s top show following its March 20 release. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office confirmed last week that the Lewis case is still active and open.