'Tiger King' star Carole Baskin’s husband was 'strangled with cord' and 'dumped out' of private jet, lawyer claims
Don Lewis' ex lawyer said, 'With somebody else flying, he got dumped out over the gulf. I heard it from two different sources. It kind of fits the scenario'
The late husband of 'Tiger King' star Carole Baskin was strangled in the back of his private plane and thrown into the Gulf of Mexico, a lawyer has reportedly claimed. Ever since the Netflix documentary series 'Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness' released this year, Baskin and the mysterious disappearance of her millionaire husband, Don Lewis, in 1997 became a talking point for many viewers as they speculated whether Baskin had killed Lewis.
The series features former zoo operator Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who was sentenced to 22 years in prison for plotting to kill Baskin, who runs the Big Cat Animal Sanctuary. Exotic first stoked wild theories about Baskin, alleging that she killed her husband and fed him to her tigers. Other viewers suggested that Lewis may have been kidnapped or even dropped into a septic tank.
Jim Rathmann, a retired cop, in a new documentary 'Joe Exotic: Tigers, Lies & Cover-Up', launched a fresh investigation into Lewis disappearance and visited the missing millionaire's former lawyer, Joe Fritz. The lawyer, in the documentary, says: "I had heard that he got strangled with an electric cord from the backseat of his airplane. With somebody else flying, he got dumped out over the gulf. I heard it from two different sources. It kind of fits the scenario, because he was a pilot, he’d owned planes, he had a license, he lost his license. His van is at Country Pilot Estates. It’s an unmanned airport, nobody logs you in, nobody logs you out. It’s not unusual for somebody to take off in a plane. So, it all fits together.”
Fritz, in the film, also claims that Lewis was enticed onto the plain with a business opportunity and then was killed and ejected from the aircraft midflight. "He got lured up there to do a great deal on an airplane," Fritz says. "He showed up. Our Sherriff says there was more than one person involved. Yes, he’s right. There’s no question in my mind that this was a murder. The question is who did it and who is behind it?”
Rathmann, however, has questions Fritz's theory in the film, asking: "Is it even possible to throw somebody out in flight? If you had to open that door going against 120, 140 knots, and trying to force that door open and push out a person that you would say at least weighed 150, 160lbs, that would have been very challenging.”
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, while talking to The Sun soon after the release of the documentary, had said that his team was getting an average of six calls every day from people claiming they had a new lead in the investigation. Although none of the leads turned out to be valid, the attention on the case promoted Chronister to reexamine the original case. “Most of them are theories," he had told the outlet. "So far there’s no viable leads, but I’m hoping that will change. One thing I think we can all agree on is when things become popular, they will likely feel more comfortable, and I’m hoping that someone will now, 23 years later, feel more comfortable to come forward and provide that missing information that we need to solve this case."
Lewis went missing on August 18, 1997, while he was on his way to Costa Rica. The millionaire was declared legally dead in 2002.