Carole Baskin’s ‘dead’ husband found alive — but no one noticed last year

“Hey all you cool cats and kittens,” Carole Baskin claims her husband isn’t dead after all.

The “Tiger King” star’s missing ex-husband, Don Lewis, was reportedly found alive in Costa Rica, but the discovery is just now going viral — over a year later.

During a November 2021 interview with ITV’s “This Morning” talk show, Baskin, 61, revealed that her ex, who was declared legally dead in 2002 after disappearing a few years before, is actually alive and well.

However, Baskin told The Post she was unaware of the alleged revelation until the sequel series was broadcast in November 2021.

“I was not aware of it until ‘TK2’ aired,” Baskin told The Post via email, pointing to her Big Cats Rescue blog.

The Big Cat Rescue owner alleged in the resurfaced ITV footage that the Department of Homeland Security has been in touch with her former spouse.

“One of the really exciting things that came out of ‘Tiger King 2’ is that they produced a letter from Homeland Security and it says that a special agent in charge with the FBI at Homeland Security reached out to the sheriff’s detective George [Jorge] Fernandez, which means this had to have happened after 2002, because Homeland Security wasn’t even around until 2002,” Baskin told the outlet at the time.

“They said my husband, Don Lewis, is alive and well in Costa Rica,” she revealed. “And yet all of this drama has been made about me having something to do with his disappearance, when Homeland Security has known where he is.”

Lewis disappeared in 1997 at the age of 59 — and would be 84 if he’s still alive today.

The Post has reached out to Baskin, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI for further comment.

Netflix showed redacted documents allegedly from the DHS that supposedly prove Don Lewis is alive.
“Tiger King” star Carole Baskin says that her ex-husband, who was declared dead in 2002, has actually been found alive.
Getty Images for NightFly Entert
Don Lewis
Don Lewis
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
Carole Baskin has appeared in a viral TikTok video set to a song that claims she killed her missing husband, Don Lewis.
Carole Baskin has appeared in a viral TikTok video set to a song that claims she killed her once-missing husband, Don Lewis.

Lewis has not made any public statements debunking rumors that he had died.

“I don’t know how it is that Homeland Security says he’s alive and well in Costa Rica but I’m glad to hear it,” Baskin told ITV. I didn’t think he was capable of supporting himself. He took about a million dollars down to Costa Rica, I had agreed to let him do that so he could prove to himself that he could make a living.”

In November 2021, Baskin and her current husband Howard penned a blog on her Big Cats Rescue website, questioning why DHS released his alleged whereabouts to Netflix for season 2, which she did not participate in.

‘And yet all of this drama has been made about me having something to do with his disappearance, when Homeland Security has known where he is.’

Carol Baskin

“Also noteworthy is the document they displayed from Homeland Security, which was not formed as an agency until 2002, five years after Don Lewis’ disappearance, saying they had information that Don Lewis was alive in Costa Rica,” they wrote at the time. “Why is this just appearing?”

The Post has reached out to Netflix for comment.

Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue blog post contained screenshots of the alleged DHS documents from the second season of the series and addressed unverified fan theories and claims that she had killed him.

“And for everyone who still wants to believe that Carole killed Don, then please explain to us why you think armchair detectives, or you are better informed than the Special Agent in Charge at the FBI in this Homeland Security Document which says ‘Don Lewis is currently alive and well in Costa Rica,’” they wrote. “This was reported to Jorge Fernandez of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office by the SAC at the FBI according to this letter. While they have purposely redacted the SAC’s name and date, we do know that there wasn’t a Homeland Security until November 2002 which was 5 years after Don Lewis left home in Tampa, FL.”

And, even though the news is over a year old, people are only just starting to pay attention to it thanks to now-viral social media posts.

“Was I the only one that didn’t know they found Carole Baskin’s husband living his best life in Costa Rica?!” someone wrote on Twitter.

Baskin revealed in an interview that her husband was found in Costa Rica after being declared legally dead in 2002.
Baskin revealed in an interview that her husband was found in Costa Rica after being declared legally dead in 2002.
©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Colle

Another person wrote“Hold on, I’m seeing people saying that Carole Baskin’s husband was found ALIVE???”

In the first season of the hit Netflix docu-series, which premiered at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Baskin revealed that her ex-husband had mysteriously disappeared in 1997. At the time of his disappearance, the two were married, and she claimed that she never heard from him again, according to CBS News.

She has since gotten remarried, having wed Howard Baskin in 2004.

Carole Baskin's ex-husband has been found alive, according to her.
Carole Baskin, seen here with current husband Howard Baskin, says her ex-husband is alive.
Getty Images for NightFly Entert

After Baskin shared her story on the series that chronicled the trials and tribulations of incarcerated big-cat keeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic the Tiger King, many people thought that Baskin had something to do with her ex’s disappearance. Some even launched into some outlandish conspiracy theories, including an unfounded claim that she was involved in a murder-for-hire plot.

Exotic — who is now serving a 21-year sentence for hiring a hitman to take Baskin out — also alleged that she had fed her ex to the tigers at Big Cat Rescue.

Baskin was so traumatized by it all that she joined a “secret” support group for celebrities going through similar things.

Meanwhile, the attorney for Baskin’s arch-nemesis Exotic shot down the new claims Wednesday in a statement.

“During the filming of Tiger King, detailed efforts were made to find Don Lewis. They all failed. He is not alive,” lawyer John M. Phillips posted on Facebook. “The 2021 report by Carole Baskin was further unsupported allegation. It’s being republished as if it has veracity. It doesn’t. The story of the Tiger King is filled with lies, set up and misdirection. We still await a hearing for Joe’s freedom. The lies and set up are spelled out in his Motion for New Trial. Read it. The work is done.”

This undated file photo provided by the Santa Rose County Jail in Milton, Fla., shows Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic.  A federal judge in Oklahoma has set a Jan.  28, 2022,
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, is currently serving a 21-year sentence.
Santa Rosa County Jail via AP, File

Lewis’ family also thought that Baskin was involved in his disappearance, even paying for a TV spot during her 2020 debut on “Dancing With The Stars,” asking the public for answers and tips.

“Do you know who did this or if Carole Baskin was involved?” Exotic’s lawyer Phillips said during the commercial.

However, Baskin has vehemently denied those claims.

“I believe their actions are just a publicity stunt,” the owner of Big Cat Rescue said in an email to CNN after the commercial was aired, “but if it helps us find Don, then that will be a huge relief.”

Baskin was not a part of “Tiger King” Season 2 and has spoken out about her disdain for the narrative spun by Netflix alleging she had something to do with Lewis’ disappearance.

“I told them to lose my number,” Baskin told Page Six in May 2021, six months before the show was released. “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

“Season 2, as expected and indicated in the Trailer, continues to do everything they can to falsely convince the viewer that Carole was involved in Don Lewis’ disappearance,” the Baskins told the Los Angeles Times in a statement in 2021.

They also alleged that the second season created a new “surge” of social media haters against the animal rights activist.

“Consistent with their prior lack of ethics, the producers continued with the technique they used in Season 1 of having accusatory statements about Carole followed by images or video of her chosen to intentionally reinforce and magnify the accusations,” their statement continued. “The result, predictably, has been a new surge of social media hate directed at Carole the day of the release.”

Baskin was so angry with Netflix that she filed a lawsuit against them in November 2021, along with Royal Goode Productions, after the trailer for the second season was released.

In the lawsuit, she alleged that her scenes in the trailer were not an accurate representation of what happened. She asked the judge to stop any footage of her from being used in the second season, as well as remove her from any promo materials, teasers and trailers.

The lawsuit was dropped a month later.


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