KEY POINTS

  • "Tiger King" is a newly-released Netflix series that has become America's new obsession
  • The show features rival big cat zoo operators Joe Maldonado-Passage and Carole Baskin
  • Maldonado-Passage implied in the show that Baskin killed her husband Don Lewis, missing since 1997

Whatever happened to animal rights activist Carole Baskin's missing husband? This was broached in part in the new "Tiger King" true-crime documentary series, which has been rising in popularity since its release on Netflix on Mar. 20.

Baskin's husband, multi-millionaire Jack Donald "Don" Lewis, disappeared in 1997. "Tiger King" provided background on his case in the third episode. As the show has become a highly-viewed series during this coronavirus quarantine, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister saw a chance to gain new leads to this 23-year-old cold case with some help from Netflix viewers.

On Monday, Mar. 29, Chronister posted a tweet seeking viewers' help.

"Since @netflix and #Covid19 #Quarantine has made #TigerKing all the rage, I figured it was a good time to ask for new leads,” the sheriff wrote.

Joe Maldonado-Passage, widely known as the Oklahoma zoo owner Joe Exotic, is the main focus of "Tiger King." Currently in prison for 22 years for his murder-for-hire attempt on Baskin, Maldonado-Passage implied in the series that Lewis was murdered by his wife to feed her big cats.

The Hillsborough deputies found Lewis' van at the Pasco County airport, with the keys dropped on the floor, the day he went missing on Aug. 18, 1997. Authorities searched the wildlife sanctuary, which he owned and managed with Baskin, then called Wildlife on Easy Street, and they also followed some leads in Costa Rica.

But five years since his disappearance, Lewis' was legally declared as deceased. Baskin, formerly Carole Lewis, has since remarried and changed the name of the wildlife sanctuary to Big Cat Rescue.

The police have never charged Lewis' wife for his disappearance.

Baskin has been critical of "Tiger King," saying that the Netflix docuseries was littered with "unsavory lies" from sources who didn't have credibility. The police also took part in the show, which was directed and produced by Eric Goode, and said that Maldonado-Passage's accusation against Baskin, his biggest rival, didn't have any merit.

tiger king A production still for "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness." Photo: Netflix

The Big Cat animal rights activist also blasted Maldonado-Passage in a recent blog post for spreading "the most ludicrous of all the lies" that she placed Lewis' body in a meat grinder at her sanctuary.

Baskin's third husband, Howard Baskin, also called out the filmmakers of "Tiger King," citing that they were deceived by Goode and co-producer Rebecca Chaiklin.

"Tiger King" has been trending on social media with the likes of Cardi B, Kim Kardashian West, Edward Norton, and Dax Shepherd sharing their insights about Maldonado-Passage and Baskin.

A few days after the release of the docuseries, the sheriff's office confirmed that Lewis' case is still active and open. Sheriff spokesperson Crystal Clark said that they have yet to receive new tips, but anyone with information may phone (813) 247-8200.