The family oflegally dead husband tell DailyMail.com that they investigated the claims that he was ‘alive and well’ in Costa Rica back in 1997 but found that the ‘witness’ had recanted their statement.
This week, a televised interview that Baskin gave to Good Morning, Britain in November 2021 resurfaced in which she said that during the filming of the second season, she learned of the sighting of Don Lewis in Central America.
In her appearance, Baskin said that she only found out about the sighting during the filming of thehit.
Don Lewis was last seen in August 1997. At the time of his disappearance, he had filed a restraining order against Baskin and told police that his wife had told him that she was going to kill him. He was declared legally dead in 2002.
In a statement to DailyMail.com, Lewis’ family members said that Baskin’s 2021 claims are ‘simply not true’ and that she is merely creating ‘a false narrative.’ Baskin has always denied any role in Lewis’ disappearance.
A UK TV interview from 2021 in which Carole Baskin claimed her legally dead husband Don Lewis is alive and living in Costa Rica recently resurfaced
Jack Smith, a spokesperson for the Lewis family, told DailyMail.com that the document that Baskin used to back up her claim in the second season of Tiger King is from 1997, not post-2002, as she alleged.
The statement said that Baskin was using the document ‘to fill a different narrative as to what happened to our father. Our father is still listed as a missing person on the National Missing and Unidentified Persons database.’
The press release continued: ‘The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department is still actively working on our dad’s case, and we are in constant communication with them as they continue to move forward with our dad’s case.’
Smith said that the document seen in season two regarding the sighting was created by US Customs in September 1997.
Baskin said that as the heading on the document reads Department of Homeland Security, which was not established until 2002.
The unverified Department of Homeland Security letter claiming Don Lewis remains alive and well and is living in Costa Rica. He was 59 when he disappeared and would be 84 now
Baskin and Lewis in Tiger King season 2. In 1997, he left his residence and was never seen by friends or family members again
However, the details from the report are identical to details described byin a September 1997 article. Baskin is quoted in the piece as saying: ‘I really don’t know what to think [about the sighting.’
She continued: ‘If this is true, I’m really, really glad he’s not in jail somewhere.’
Smith told DailyMail.com that in November 1997, Donna, Don Lewis’ eldest daughter traveled to Central America to follow up on the sighting.
He said that she and her husband went to the various properties he owned across Costa Rica and spoke to multiple local residents but had no success in locating Lewis.
Joe Exotic (pictured), whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is now serving a 21 year prison sentence for hiring two hitmen to kill Baskin
Smith continued: ‘They later learned that the informant had recanted his statement about seeing Don Lewis, and also learned that his main car of use in Costa Rica, his Toyota Land Cruiser, had been sold within four days of his missing persons report being filed.’
He added: ‘The signature on the paperwork of his Land Cruiser didn’t match his signature, according to Mark Songer, a handwriting expert.’
The claim that Lewis is ‘alive and well in Costa Rica’ had earlier been called into question by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which remains in charge of the hunt for Lewis and still has an open missing persons case for him.
Jack Don Lewis remains listed as a ‘missing endangered adult,’ who on August 18, 1997 ‘left his families [sic] residence and has not been seen or heard from since.’
The New York Post reported on Thursday that the sheriff’s office largely dismissed Baskin’s remarks that her ex is alive and thriving in the tropics.
A spokesperson for the office said that they had not heard anything about Lewis’ whereabouts, despite Baskin’s claim that a Department of Homeland Security official had been in touch with her ex and subsequently informed the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s public information office, Fentress Fountain, said: ‘We have not received any communication from our federal partners that confirms the location of missing person Mr. Don Lewis.’
‘The investigation into Don Lewis’ disappearance remains a priority for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, as do all missing person cases.’
At the time the claim was first generated, the lead detective on the case – Cpl. Moises Garcia – told the Tampa Bay Times that the case remains open, despite the document.
‘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.
He told the outlet that federal officials had recently assisted the sheriff’s office by ‘running down leads in Costa Rica,’ but did not confirm that those leads led to reports that Lewis was found ‘alive and well.’