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Carole Baskin’s claim that ex Don Lewis is alive shot down by sheriff

Carole Baskin’s startling claim that her long-assumed-dead ex-husband Don Lewis was actually found alive is news to the Florida sheriff’s office still actively looking for him.

The “Tiger King” star claimed in a now-viral UK TV interview that her ex “is alive and well in Costa Rica.”

However, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which is in charge of the hunt, still has an open missing person case for Lewis, even after he was legally declared dead in 2002.

Jack Don Lewis is still listed as a “missing endangered adult” who on Aug. 18, 1997 “left his families [sic] residence and has not been seen or heard from since.”

The sheriff’s office confirmed to TMZ that it had not heard any news of his apparent materializing, stressing that his case remained a priority.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office missing person alert for Lewis on its website.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office still has an open missing person case for Lewis.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Of

It also said it had not heard anything to the contrary from the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), despite Baskin’s explosive TV claim that the department had been in touch with her ex and shared that news with Hillsborough County officers.

The department was unable to immediately confirm that to The Post early Thursday. The Post has also reached out to the sheriff’s office.

In a statement to The Post Wednesday about the resurfaced clip, Baskin admitted she was unaware of the alleged revelation until the sequel series was broadcast in November 2021.

At the time, the lead detective on the Lewis case, Cpl. Moises Garcia, told the Tampa Bay Times that the case was still open — despite the apparent letter produced by the DHS.

“We continue to push hard on this case. … We still have some avenues. Not a week goes by that we don’t have our hand in this case,” he said.

The investigator told the outlet that the DHS had recently “assisted” the Sheriff’s Office by “running down leads in Costa Rica” but he did not confirm any reports that Lewis was found “alive and well.”

Carole Baskin with one of her tigers.
Carole Baskin confirmed to The Post this week that she believes Lewis was found alive.
Mirrorpix / MEGA

Meanwhile, an attorney for Joe Exotic — Baskin’s nemesis who has long accused her of feeding her ex to tigers at her Big Cat Rescue — also trashed the claim that Lewis was alive and well.

“He is not alive,” John Phillips stated on Facebook while sharing The Post’s story of Baskin’s claims.

“The 2021 report by Carole Baskin was further unsupported allegation. It’s being republished as if it has veracity. It doesn’t,” said the lawyer for Exotic, who is serving a 21-year sentence for hiring a hitman to take out his rival.

“The story of the Tiger King is filled with lies, set up and misdirection,” he wrote of the imprisoned viral star, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage.

Joe Exotic mugshot.
Attorney for Joe Exotic, who is serving 21 years for hiring a hitman to kill Baskin, maintained that Lewis “is not alive.”

The lawyer claimed Baskin’s 2021 claim — which she also shared on her website — was “false and designed to bring more attention to Carole Baskin.”

Exotic also shared the statement of his Facebook page — as well as a rap song accusing Baskin of feeding Lewis to her big cats.

Don Lewis with one of his big cats.
Joe Exotic has long suggested this his rival fed her ex to her big cats.

Don Lewis with a big cat.
Lewis was legally declared dead in 2002.


Don Lewis staring at a big cat.
The sheriiff’s office is still looking for Lewis, despite Baskin’s claim that he was found alive in Costa Rica.


Lewis was 59 when he went missing, and would now be 84. He is listed in his missing person file as being 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds when he went missing from his Tampa home. His ex has since remarried, having wed Howard Baskin in 2004.

Neither the DHS nor Netflix responded to The Post’s requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Nika Shakhnazarova

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