When the Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness revealed animal rights activist Carole Baskin’s husband, Don Lewis, mysteriously went missing, leaving her with millions of dollars, jaws dropped. There is a variety of theories explaining his unsolved disappearance. Scroll below to see what may have actually happened to the big cat lover.
What Happened to Carole Baskin’s Husband?
Carole and Don got married in 1991 after a whirlwind romance. Despite having a 22-year age difference, they were madly in love and opened Big Cat Rescue in 1992. From the outside, the couple seemed perfectly happy until Don went missing in 1997.
His wife said he told her he was going on a trip to Costa Rica, but flight records don’t indicate any travel to the island. His van was discovered at a private airport two days after he went missing, but several people interviewed in the documentary believe it was planted there.
Despite a police investigation, Don was never found and was declared dead five years later in 2002.
Did Carole Baskin Kill Her Husband?
Although Carole continuously denied killing her husband, many close to the couple seemed to believe otherwise. According to the documentary, Don told several people he was planning to leave Carole and take his fortune with him. He also reportedly mentioned he was scared of her and filed a domestic violence injunction against his wife, citing her threatening to shoot him, but the injunction was never cleared by a judge.
Some people theorized she fed her husband to the tigers in a fit of rage upon hearing his plan. “It is a perfect scenario to dispose of someone. We were upset that the cops didn’t test the DNA on the meat grinder,” Don’s daughter, Donna Pettis, told People in 1998.
Additionally, Carole’s enemy and fellow big cat fanatic Joe Exotic believes Don was put in a septic tank underneath his property. As for Carole, she thinks her husband tried to flee to Costa Rica. Although there are no flight records, she said Don never flew legally.
While Don’s disappearance still hasn’t been solved, Carole insists she did not hurt her husband. “Don was not easy to live with and, like most couples, we had our moments. But I never threatened him and I certainly had nothing to do with his disappearance,” she wrote on her website. “When he disappeared, I did everything I could to assist the police. I encouraged them to check out the rumors from Costa Rica, and separately I hired a private investigator.”
Don Lewis’ Net Worth — How Much Did He Leave Behind?
Carole declared her husband dead as soon as it was legal to do so despite having no real evidence of his death. Carole was Don’s power of attorney, which meant she had control over his estate and thus all of his wealth.
According to Don’s longtime assistant Anne McQueen, he had a $1.25 million life insurance policy. Don became a self-made millionaire due to his work in real estate in addition to Big Cat Rescue. Between his various business affairs and holdings, his estate was estimated to be worth about $5 million.