1. Life & Culture

Hillsborough sheriff seeks new tips in ‘Tiger King’ cold case

Tampa’s Don Lewis, husband of Big Cat rescue CEO Carol Baskin, went missing in 1997.

What happened to Don Lewis? The question at the heart of Episode 3 of Netflix’s Tiger King has remained unanswered for 23 years.

Now Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is hoping the popularity of the Netflix documentary series can help shake something loose in the cold case.

Related: UPDATE: Sheriff holds press conference, assigns detective to 'Tiger King' cold case

A tweet from Chronister’s account on Monday reads, “Since @netflix and #Covid19 #Quarantine has made #TigerKing all the rage, I figured it was a good time to ask for new leads.

“Only you can help solve the Jack “Don” Lewis cold case."

Tiger King was released March 20 and quickly rose to No. 1 in U.S. streaming on Netflix. On March 24, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the Don Lewis case remains “active and open," though “we are not aware of any new tips related to the case at this time,” said sheriff spokeswoman Crystal Clark.

Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (813) 247-8200.

Lewis went missing in 1997. His van was found at a Pasco County airport with the keys on the floor. Deputies searched the wildlife sanctuary, then named Wildlife on Easy Street, and flew to Costa Rica looking for leads. They never found him.

Related: From the archive: Read the original newspaper stories on Don Lewis, Carol Baskin and Joe Exotic

Carole Baskin, then Carole Lewis, has since remarried and continues to run the wildlife sanctuary, now known as Big Cat Rescue.

Tiger King is a seven-part series that tells the story of Joe Exotic, an eccentric Oklahoma zookeeper convicted in a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin, and his place in a larger community of “big cat people.”

Episode 3 focuses on the disappearance of Don Lewis, and rumors that Baskin may have been involved. Baskin has never been charged with any crime and said the Netflix series is full of “unsavory lies” told by people “who are not credible.”