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    Carole Baskin’s claim that ex Don Lewis is alive is 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.

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

    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.”

    In a statement given to The Post on Thursday, Florida’s Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office shot down Baskin’s newly viral remarks.

    A spokesperson confirmed the office had not heard anything to the contrary from the Department 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.

    “We have not received any communication from our federal partners that confirms the location of missing person Mr. Don Lewis,” said Fentress Fountain, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.

    “The investigation into Don Lewis’ disappearance remains a priority for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, as do all missing person cases.”

    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

    The department was unable to immediately confirm that to The Post early Thursday.

    In a statement to The Post Wednesday about the resurfaced clip, Baskin also 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 on 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.
    An attorney for Joe Exotic, who is serving 21 years for hiring a hitman to kill Baskin, maintained that Lewis “is not alive.”

    The lawyer insisted 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 on 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 that 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 5 feet 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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