Carole Baskin's husband who was declared legally dead in 2002 after going missing was reportedly found alive in Costa Rica in November 2021. Despite being alive for over a year, the world just found out the news this week — and now, Don Lewis' family is speaking out.
Lewis' daughters Donna Pettis, Lynda Sanchez and Gale Rathbone issued a statement refuting the claims and even clapped back at Baskin's revelation where she claimed to not have known Lewis was alive until the Tiger King sequel premiered in November 2021. "It's simply not true," the statement read, according to the New York Post.
"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 ITV at the time.
Pettis, Sanchez and Rathbone even accused Baskin of "manipulating a letter" in Tiger King 2 "in order to create 'a different narrative' about Lewis' disappearance,'" the news outlet reported. They even wrote in a statement that their father is still listed as a missing person:
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. 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. 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.
A recent statement from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office mirrors the daughters' statement. "We have not received any communication from our federal partners that confirms the location of missing person Mr. Don Lewis. The investigation into Don Lewis’ disappearance remains a priority for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, as do all missing person cases," the statement read.
In Baskin's interview from November 2021, she said, "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."
Lewis family spokesperson Jack Smith also said Baskin's "alive and well" claim "reeks of desperation and and is a blatant bid to deflect speculation that she may know crucial details about Don’s disappearance," according to the Post.
Lewis, who married Baskin in 1991, went missing in 1997 when he was 59 years old.