Two weeks after the Tiger King craze began on Netflix, the show’s sitting atop the streaming pile while folks are self-quarantined and looking for exactly the kind of ridiculousness that’s offered by Joe Exotic. One of the bigger plots of the show revolved around Joseph Maldonado-Passage’s murder-for-hire convictions, which led to the bulk of his ongoing prison sentence, but a no-less sensational subplot involved his target’s subject: Big Cat Rescue CEO and rival Carole Baskin. She, as viewers learned, was once married to a man named Jack “Don” Lewis, who mysteriously disappeared without a trace in 1997. Various hypotheticals were discussed in the show, including the possibility of someone pushing Lewis out of an airplane or him even being murdered and fed to big cats. Morbid, yes, but it’s captivating to the Netflix audience.
The decades-old case went cold, and it remained that way until a few weeks ago. Interest in the docuseries led the Hillsborough Country Sheriff’s Department to solicit tips from the public on what could have happened to Lewis. CNN spoke with Sheriff Chad Chronister, who said the tips are becoming a regular occurrence:
“We are already receiving new tips and we hope to close this cold case soon with the help of the public. Since the documentary came out we’ve been receiving about six tips a day related to this case. We are looking into each one thoroughly.”
Could any of these tips be solid enough to work some magic on the case? Well, in a Tuesday press conference, Chronister updated reporters on the subject. According to the NY Daily News, “nothing credible” has surfaced as of yet, but he’s assigned a detective to investigating all these tips, and he’s holding out hope that someone tangentially involved within the series might have “a change of heart” and start talking:
“If you’ve seen the series, because of the competition between the people that had the different cat rescues, there were a lot of questions about who was loyal. What we’re hoping is maybe someone has had a change of heart, maybe a relationship status has changed.”
Baskin has always maintained her innocence in this case, although a great number of people featured in the docuseries obviously believe otherwise. This morning’s press conference revealed that the sheriff asked Baskin to take a polygraph test on the matter, but she refused. There’s no telling whether Tiger King will actually lead to something more substantial in the Lewis case, but his family, obviously, is looking for closure on the matter. The sheriff’s department is asking people to call 813-247-8200 with any and all tips on the cold case.