The Wild Story Behind the Disappearance of Carole Baskin's Husband

Temi Adebowale
·5 mins read

From Men's Health

  • Netflix's new documentary Tiger King is a hit with fans.

  • But viewers want to know more about Carole Baskin and the disappearance of her first husband Don Lewis.

  • Here's what you need to know about Carole and Don.

Tiger King is one of the wildest documentaries we've seen on Netflix in a while, and the series' cast of characters includes: Joe Exotic, a polygamist that owned and operated an exotic big cat park in Oklahoma; Doc Antle, another eccentric park owner; and the convicted cocaine drug lord Mario Tabraue. Carole Baskin is also a key character in the seven-part docuseries, and her story just might be the most out there of them all.

Carole owns Big Cat Rescue, a Florida-based organization that advocates for the end of abuse towards big cats in captivity. As expected, Carole and Joe Exotic clashed when she openly criticized the practices and conditions at Joe's zoo, Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (or GW Zoo). Joe first retaliated by making her the subject of his country diss track "Kitty Kitty," but the story soon turned sordid when it was revealed that he had tried to hire a hitman to kill Carole.

However, Carole is not as blameless as she might seem. A big plot point in Tiger King was the disappearance of Carole's husband, Don Lewis, and both Joe and some users on social media have speculated that Carole may have been involved in her husband's missing persons case. OK, people seem to think that Carole may have actually killed her husband by feeding him to their tigers.

We decided to take a look into the facts behind Carole Baskin and her husband, Don Lewis, as well as what she's up to now.

What happened to Carol Baskin's husband?

Carole Baskin and Don Lewis got married in 1991, and they opened Big Cat Rescue in 1992. Don was a self-made millionaire, and while there was a 22-year age difference between the two, things between them seemed fine until 60-year-old Don vanished without a trace in August 1997.

Don's van was discovered at a private airport two days after he went missing, and Carole said that he had told her he was going on a trip to Costa Rica. But despite a police investigation and an inquiry by Carole's own private investigator, Don was never found, and was declared dead in 2002.

Don's relatives had always questioned whether Carole was involved, and in 1998, one of Don's daughters told People that, "It [the animal sanctuary] is a perfect scenario to dispose of someone. We were upset that the cops didn’t test the DNA on the meat grinder." Much of Don's family were also angered when Carole received control of most of his estate after his disappearance.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Don's kids also reportedly said that he had told them he was planning to leave her Carole—and while no official divorce filing was ever found, police did find court documents that Don had filed about two months before he disappeared. He had been seeking a domestic-violence injunction against Carole, and he accused her of threatening to shoot him. However, a judge didn't find grounds for an injunction.

Carole has always maintained her innocence, and she seems to believe that Don may be alive and well in Costa Rica. In her own interview segment with People, she said that the accusations against her were baseless and harmful. "Can you imagine having people think you killed your husband or wife and not being able to prove otherwise?" she said. "Without a body, there is nothing I can do to clear my name."

Where is Carole Baskin now?

Carole still runs Big Cat Rescue (and she was actually awarded Joe's zoo), and she's now married to a man named Howard Baskin, who appears in Tiger King. Carole spoke to Vanity Fair before she saw Tiger King, and she explained that it was "painful" to revisit Don's disappearance:

"We gave [authorities] all of the information that they needed to go look at the court records and to see that I always dealt fairly and honestly with Don’s daughters…He had been my best friend from the time that I was 19. I lost him in 1997, so talking about that turns up a lot of painful memories." Carole also added that she had her own suspicions about Don's longtime secretary, Anne McQueen.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

After viewing Tiger King, Carole made a post on her blog, where she expressed her disapproval of how her storyline played out. "It has a segment devoted to suggesting, with lies and innuendos from people who are not credible, that I had a role in the disappearance of my husband Don 21 years ago," she wrote. "The series presents this without any regard for the truth or in most cases even giving me an opportunity before publication to rebut the absurd claims. They did not care about truth. The unsavory lies are better for getting viewers."

Carole also made several claims in her post: she writes that Don was diagnosed with bipolar disorder before he disappeared, secretary Anne McQueen was once caught embezzling money, and Don actually wasn't a millionaire when they met. She then ended the blog with one final statement of innocence: "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."

After Tiger King, Carole became quite the meme celebrity, and she later landed on the most recent season of Dancing with the Stars. However, her debut on the show still involved Don, as his family took out an ad during the episode to call for answers about his disappearance. Despite all of this, though, it remains unlikely that we'll ever truly know what happened to Don Lewis.

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