Following Netflix’s docu-series Tiger King instant rise to viral fame, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister saw an opportunity to close the 20-year-old cold case surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Carole Baskin‘s husband Jack “Don” Lewis. The couple were prominently featured on the show, which gave Chronister hope that the renewed attention on Baskin and Lewis might jar some memories, so he tweeted out a request for new leads that could finally put the case to bed.
While Chronister’s request worked and his department has received a steady barrage of tips, not all of them have been helpful. In a surprisingly lengthy interview with Vulture, the Florida sheriff shoots down theories, sheds light on the “complicated” lives of the show’s subjects, and most importantly, he drills down on a key point that makes Lewis’ disappearance seem very suspicious:
And then there’s the will. I know that was a big point of contention: that the will was forged. Certainly, like you and everyone else, I am suspect of the will. I’ve never heard, in my 52 years of life or in my 28 years in law enforcement, of anyone creating a will that stated “if I’m missing, or kidnapped, please leave the bulk of my wealth to this individual.” So a lot of that was suspect. And then we had someone who worked for Carole who said, “Yes, I witnessed all the signatures.”
And then, later on, she recanted her statement.
As Chronister further explains, there are two things about the will that are huge red flags: Lewis’ kids were written out of it, and it specifically predicts going missing or being kidnapped. “I’ve heard of wealthy people wanting to get away or disappear,” Chronister said. “But I’ve never heard of one disappearing and not taking their money with them. Who can forecast that they might disappear?”
When it comes to the new leads that have become coming in, Chronister notes that, so far, none of the tips have been viable. In fact, most of them are just people who watched Tiger King and formed their own theories from the documentary, but Chronister is still encouraging his detectives to hear them out:
I’ve told my detectives not to get upset, because someone may call and cause us to look at this case from a different lens, and maybe that will help us solve the case. I certainly don’t discount it. But you saw the documentary, where everyone believed that he was buried under the septic tank. Well, that septic tank wasn’t put in until years after his disappearance. That was a dead end. There something about the meat grinders, and people asked, “Why didn’t you get DNA from the meat grinders?” Well, the meat grinders where removed. They stopped using them weeks before his disappearance. But people watching the documentary don’t know a lot of the information we’ve already investigated.
According to Chronister, detectives investigated Lewis’ disappearance so thoroughly that they even flew down to Costa Rica to investigate if he really did flee the country, but due to Lewis’ shady connections, they were met with obstacles at every turn and returned with nothing but conflicting stories. As for whether all of this makes Baskin a main subject, Chronister says she always has been cooperative and makes no such accusation. He does note, however, that some of her details have never been corroborated including Lewis’ allegedly deteriorating mental health or the night that he supposedly told her he was leaving for Costa Rica before vanishing.