Sheriff: The Will of Carole Baskin's Missing Husband Was Forged

Crime is past the statute of limitations but adds 'another shadow of suspicion'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 4, 2020 5:17 PM CDT
Sheriff: The Will of Carole Baskin's Missing Husband Was Forged
Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property near Tampa in 2017.   (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

Someone forged the will of the missing husband of Carole Baskin, a woman prominently featured in Netflix's Tiger King documentary series, a Florida sheriff said. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister told 10 Tampa Bay on Tuesday that two experts had confirmed the will of Jack "Don" Lewis is a forgery. Lewis disappeared in 1997 and was declared dead in 2002. The millionaire's will left most of his estate, including a private Tampa zoo that would eventually become Big Cat Rescue animal sanctuary, to Baskin, cutting out his children from a previous marriage. Criminal charges aren't expected because the statute of limitations has expired, Chronister said. "The will had already been executed at that point,” Chronister said. “But, it certainly cast another shadow of suspicion, by all means." Lewis's disappearance remains an open case, the AP reports.

In March, Chronister announced that he was seeking new leads. The documentary is about Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as "Joe Exotic," a former Oklahoma zookeeper who loves guns, younger men, and big cats. He was sentenced this year to 22 years in prison, convicted of trying to hire someone to kill Baskin, who had tried to shut him down, accusing the Oklahoma zoo of abusing animals and selling big cat cubs. In retaliation, Maldonado-Passage raised questions about Lewis' disappearance. The documentary covered Maldonado-Passage’s repeated accusations that Baskin killed her husband and possibly fed him to her tigers. Baskin, who founded Big Cat Rescue, has never been charged with any crime and released a statement rebutting the accusations made in the series. On Monday, a federal judge in Oklahoma awarded ownership of Maldonado-Passage's former zoo to Big Cat Rescue Corp. as part of a civil judgment.

(More Tiger King stories.)

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