Florida Sheriff Seeks To Reopen “Tiger King” Murder Case

Kadence Perkins

Left to right: Joe Maldonado Passage “Joe Exotic” and Carole Baskin

The “Tiger King” Netflix limited series has caught and captivated the eyes of the viewers with many things. Sure, you could focus on the fact that there’s raw footage of animals and humans in hilarious and often precarious situations. These range from lions and tigers and bears….you get the gist. However, the seemingly fairy-tale life and rivalry of two private zookeepers— Joseph Maldonado Passage and Carole Baskin, had much more to it than met the eye. 

Carole Baskin, a self-proclaimed animal’s rights activist specializing in big cat rescue, along with her husband, Jack Donald Lewis, started a private zoo dedicated to the rescue of big cats in exploitative situations. The married couple seemed to be going the way they should, and things looked smooth to any outsiders. However, in 1997, Lewis went missing—and without any possible traces or leads as to what might have happened to him. Police were puzzled and left with almost nothing to go on, rendering Lewis’ disappearance a cold case. With the Tiger King Netflix special becoming such a large hit with people all over the world, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister asked for new leads in the disappearance of Jack Donald Lewis.  

Via Twitter

Theories swarmed like flies on what might have happened to the wife of the tiger-queen, with one very macabre possibility also having been discovered in the show. 

An undated photo of Jack Donald Lewis, who disappeared in 1997 under suspicious circumstances.

A tiger’s propensity to kill is nearly unmatched; with no natural predators, it is a killing machine with natural weapons in the forms of half-ton weight and menacing size, claws that could kill any man in one swipe, strength beyond that of any other big cat, and jaws that could crush almost anything but metal. That being said, people were quick to theorize that Jack Donald Lewis was not killed by conventional means; rather, that he was killed—and eaten— by a tiger. How would this have happened?

A Siberian Tiger, which can grow to over 13 feet long and weigh over 500 pounds.

Carole Baskin and her husband had many disagreements during their marriage, the most significant of which was what to do to expand their big cat business. Lewis proposed starting up again in Costa Rica to have more leeway and freedom for their business, but Carole didn’t think this best for the cats. Along with this came supposed allegations of infidelity on Lewis’ part, as Baskin wrote about being tired of his incessant cheating and unfaithfulness. Perhaps the most eerie piece of evidence is Lewis’ letter to police begging for protection, as he said he feared for his life because of Carole and her violent rage fits. 

Jack Donald Lewis’ petition for protection against Carole Baskin.

In the petition, Lewis stated that Baskin had a .45 caliber pistol and was threatening to kill him, and that she had hidden his .357 gun somewhere unknown in the house. According to police, however, this was not enough to warrant police protection, as there was only a threat of violence against him, and no actual physical harm was caused to Lewis. 

What do you think happened to Jack Donald Lewis? Animal accident or the desires of a wishful widow? Either way, we’re sure to hear more of this possibly gnarly case as the show continues to gain traction.

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