Family of Carole Baskin’s ‘dead’ husband break silence

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Family of Carole Baskin's 'dead' husband break silence

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The claws are coming out in the decades-long feud between “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin and the daughters of her “dead” husband Don Lewis.

In a statement provided to The Post on Friday, Lewis’ offspring — Donna Pettis, Lynda Sanchez, and Gale Rathbone — clap back at Baskin’s stunning claim that he has been found “alive and well” in Costa Rica.

“It’s simply not true,” the daughters declared, before accusing Baskin of manipulating a letter seen in Netflix’s “Tiger King 2” in order to create “a different narrative” about Lewis’ disappearance.

Lewis — who married Big Cat Rescue boss Baskin back in 1991 — vanished without a trace in August 1997 and was declared legally dead in 2002.

Baskin, 61, has vehemently denied any involvement in her millionaire spouse’s mysterious disappearance and has blasted rumors that she put his body through a meat grinder and fed it to tigers at her animal rescue ranch in Tampa, Florida.

In a Zoom interview with The Post on Thursday, Lewis family spokesperson, Jack Smith, also blasted Baskin. He said her “alive and well” claim reeks of desperation and is a blatant bid to deflect speculation that she may know crucial details about Don’s disappearance.

“I think she’s just trying to do anything she can to clear her name,” Smith said, adding that Lewis’ three daughters have been upset with her assertions.

Lewis’ offspring have long loathed Baskin — but have stopped short of saying she was involved in their wealthy dad’s vanishing.

Lewis — who married “Tiger King” star Baskin in 1991 — vanished without a trace in August 1997 and was declared legally dead in 2002. Lewis and Baskin are pictured in an old photo.
Netflix
Lewis’ three daughters and his former assistant are seen alongside their attorney in a 2020 commercial pleading for information as to the millionaire’s whereabouts.
John M. Phillips/YouTube

Earlier this week, Baskin was thrust back into the headlines after resurfaced footage from a November 2021 interview with Britain’s “This Morning” talk show went viral, showing the animal rights activist saying that Lewis had been found alive.

Baskin stated: “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, This had to have happened after 2002 because Homeland Security wasn’t even around until 2002 [when Lewis was declared dead].”

She continued: “They said my husband, Don Lewis, is alive and well in Costa Rica. 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.”

Baskin herself 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 on Wednesday.

Netflix showed redacted documents allegedly from the DHS that supposedly prove Don Lewis is alive.
While a letter from the Department of Homeland Security is seen in ‘Tiger King 2′, Lewis’ daughters say it does not say their dad is “alive and well.”
Baskin has vehemently denied any involvement in her millionaire spouse's mysterious disappearance and has blasted rumors that she killed her husband and fed him to tigers at her Big Cat Rescue ranch in Tampa, Florida.
Baskin has vehemently denied any involvement in her millionaire spouse’s mysterious disappearance and has blasted rumors that she killed her husband and fed him to tigers at her Big Cat Rescue ranch in Tampa, Florida.

While a letter from the Department of Homeland Security is seen in ‘Tiger King 2′, Lewis’ daughters say it does not say their dad is “alive and well.”

They also say a separate letter — penned in 1997 — appears in the program, but does not provide definitive evidence that Lewis is living.

“In the past few days, we’ve learned of recent news articles being published claiming that our Dad, Jack Donald Lewis, has been found ‘alive and well,’ in Costa Rica,” the daughters wrote in a full statement provided to The Post.

“While we would certainly welcome the good news of our dad being found alive, it’s just simply not true. In late 1997, we were notified by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department that a report existed from US Customs stating that our Dad had been seen in Costa Rica. This report prompted Donna, the oldest daughter of Don Lewis, and her husband Tim, to travel to Costa Rica in November of 1997 to look for Don Lewis. This was the same report that was shown in ‘Tiger King 2’ that is now being used to fill a different narrative as to what happened to our father.”

The statement continued: “Our father is still listed as a missing person on the National Missing and Unidentified Persons database. 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.”

Lewis was 59 years old at the time he vanished — and would be 84 if he’s still alive today.

Lewis hasn't been seen in more than 25 years. Lewis' daughters do not believe he is currently living in Costa Rica.
Lewis hasn’t been seen in more than 25 years. Lewis’ daughters do not believe he is currently living in Costa Rica.
Netflix
An attorney speaks for the family of Don Lewis during a news conference in 2020.
Getty Images

The Lewis daughters’ statement jibes with one provided to the Post by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday.

“We have not received any communication from our federal partners that confirms the location of missing person Mr. Don Lewis,” Fentress Fountain, public information officer, told The Post.

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

In 2020, the Lewis family filed a defamation lawsuit against Baskin saying she didn’t speak up during her appearance on “Dancing With the Stars” when judges cracked some jokes about her missing hubby.

They accused the Big Cat Rescue Boss of being “complicit” when judges name-dropped a viral TikTok video showcasing the unproved conspiracy theory that Baskin killed Lewis and fed him to their hungry tigers.

Shortly after “Tiger King” first hit Netflix in 2020, the Lewis family offered a $100,000 reward for fresh information on Don Lewis’ disappearance 

Don Lewis' daughters have long loathed Baskin and have previously sued her for defamation.
Don Lewis’ daughters have long loathed Baskin and have previously sued her for defamation.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

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