Did Carole Baskin forge Don Lewis’ will? Missing husband’s lawyer finds ‘disappearance’ clause strange
TAMPA, FLORIDA: Carole Baskin's missing husband's attorney alleges that the man's will was "forged" due to an odd "disappearance" clause. Joseph Fritz, Don Lewis' lawyer, claims that when he read the document's unexpected clause giving Baskin complete power over his multimillion-dollar inheritance in the event of "disability or disappearance," he realized it was "fabricated."
Lewis, 59, vanished in August 1997 after allegedly informing Baskin that he intended to go to Costa Rica on his personal aircraft. The man disappeared without a trace, and his truck was subsequently discovered 40 miles from the property he and his wife owned outside Tampa, Florida, at an abandoned airfield. Lewis was formally pronounced dead in 2002, but Fritz allegedly says he is certain Lewis was "murdered," reports Daily Mail.
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Did Carole Baskin forge Don Lewis' will?
Joseph Fritz, Don Lewis' lawyer, and a friend has long insisted that the will was forged and that he thought someone else had signed it instead of Lewis. The document was forged, according to Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, who stated in 2020 that two experts had examined the document and found it to be false. "They called in some experts to say that the will was a forgery and I had already told them that two months ago," Chronister stated. "They had two experts deem it 100% a forgery," the sheriff told local media WTSP. "That's the only reason. There's no recourse," he stated. "A judge deemed it valid. So the civil side of it, with the execution of the will [and] disbursement of the funds is one thing. But then you have the criminal side, which is unable to prosecute."
As reported by Fox News, Lewis' estate may have been worth up to $10 million. The whole estate was left to Baskin with Lewis' family being cut off. Police located Lewis' van at the deserted private airfield outside of Tampa after he vanished. No blood or other evidence of a struggle was found inside, according to law officials. Additionally, his flying and banking activities are not recorded.
'Non-lawyer did that'
Baskin allegedly produced his will after he vanished and grabbed control of his fortune thanks to the unexplained clause. "In my law office, we have lawyers with more than 100 years combined experience, and none of us has ever heard the word 'disappearance' used in a document like that," Fritz said to The US Sun. "Never. Not in one case. It leaves me to believe that a non-lawyer did that. Who the f**k thinks they're going to disappear?"
As The Sun reported, Fritz believes the clause was added to the paper by someone with legal knowledge, but he does not believe it was created by an actual lawyer. Baskin has already admitted to writing the court documents, stating she did so to save Don money on lawyer bills. Baskin originally stated in a post on her website BigCatRescue.org from 2020: "Some people made a fuss about using the word 'disappearance,' but Don had told me about people going to Costa Rica and disappearing, and he was dealing with the mob down there, so I thought that seemed like a potential threat and included the word." "I also included disability because of Don’s increasingly strange behavior." She continued, "Our Costa Rican attorney, Roger Petersen, said the Helicopter Brothers were their version of the mob, and Don was loaning them money."
'Signatures were traced'
Lewis' signature on both of the documents is allegedly faked, according to Fritz, who has long held this opinion. Clarion-Ledger newspaper claims that the notary identified on the will and power of attorney does not recall authenticating the documents. As per the outlet, two different handwriting experts decided that Lewis' signature looks to have been "traced" from his 1991 marriage record. Speaking to The Sun, Fritz stated, "It was nearly exact replication to the extent that I was very confidently able to opine that what I was dealing with – at least with Mr. Lewis's signature – that these signatures were traced."