Don Lewis chilly case: “Meat grinder” idea investigated in case of lacking millionaire

[This story originally aired on September 9, 2021. It was updated on January 1, 2022.]

There are attainable new leads within the unusual case of lacking millionaire Don Lewis — a person who appeared to fade and not using a hint.

 Richard Schlesinger: You imagine he was killed, appropriate?

Alex Spiro: Uh, sure.

Alex Spiro, an legal professional and former prosecutor, is working for Lewis’ daughters to assist examine what occurred to their father.

Alex Spiro: There’s witnesses and knowledge that make clear additional information and circumstances surrounding this.

Richard Schlesinger: Have you ever met these witnesses?

Alex Spiro: Sure.

Richard Schlesinger: And also you imagine them?

Alex Spiro: Sure.

DONNA PETTIS [ Don Lewis’ daughter [to reporters]: We had misplaced all hope of ever understanding what occurred to dad.

After which they acquired some hope from a TV collection — the Netflix documentary “Tiger King,” about an Oklahoma-based, eccentric big-cat proprietor named Joe Unique and his epic battle with Tampa-based animal rights activist Carole Baskin.

“Joe Unique is that this wild, cartoonish — flamboyant, openly-gay, mulleted, tattooed, gun-toting, large-animal proprietor,” says Vainness Honest author Julie Miller.” Kinda the Mick Jagger, I might say, of the large-cat animal world … Carole’s extra a hippie, new-age vibe, wears flower crowns.”

AP Photograph/Alamy

Julie Miller | Senior function author, Vainness Honest: Joe Unique is that this wild, cartoonish— flamboyant, openly-gay, mulleted, tattooed, gun-toting, large-animal proprietor…. Kinda the Mick Jagger, I might say, of the large-cat animal world. Carole has normal herself as extra of an animal activist. … She says that what Joe is doing just isn’t humane and must be stopped.

Woven into this leisure, explains Miller, is a chilly case.

Julie Miller: Carole’s second husband, Don Lewis, disappeared below very mysterious circumstances. It was in 1997 and he simply vanished. There have been all types of theories.

Gale Rathbone | Don Lewis’ daughter: There’s one which he was drugged and put in one of many small planes and dumped out within the gulf.

Julie Miller: Essentially the most insane idea, in all probability being that … Carole Baskin … had her husband floor up in a meat grinder and fed them to the animals.

JOE EXOTIC [Joe Exotic TV YouTube page]: Phrase has it that Carole snuck up on him in the midst of the evening, beat him within the head … floor him up and fed him to the tigers.

As weird as that sounds, one lady believes her ex-husband, who as soon as labored for Don and Carole, might have revealed one thing about Don’s destiny throughout a struggle.  

Trish Farr-Payne: He mentioned, “In the event you attempt to depart me once more, I’ll put you within the grinder, like I did Don.”

Her ex-husband denies her story.

Richard Schlesinger: Do you imagine her husband informed her that “he’d put her in a meat grinder the way in which he did to Don?

Alex Spiro: I’ll let you know that there’s sure data she’s offered that has been independently corroborated,” he replied.

Richard Schlesinger who would you wish to interview most?

Corporal Moise Garcia: Carole Baskin

CAROLE BASKIN [June 1, 2002 video]: I did not kill Don.

Julie Miller: Folks need solutions. …They wish to know what occurred to Don Lewis.


Prefer it or not, the Tiger King, Joe Unique, is again — alongside along with his arch enemy Carole Baskin.

Heaps has occurred to those two since we final heard from them.  Netflix got here out with a second season of its “Tiger King” collection and Carole Baskin vented on a celeb webcast known as “Hollywood Uncooked.”

CAROLE BASKIN “[Hollywood Raw”]: I actually really feel like that is going to be simply one other horrible yr of individuals having the flawed concept of who I’m and what I am attempting to do.

Carole Baskin started getting all that focus when she was attempting to close down Joe Unique’s non-public zoo in Oklahoma.

JOE EXOTIC [Joe Exotic TV YouTube page]: She has spent over a million-and-a-half {dollars} simply attempting to close me down.

Joe Unique fought again. His weapon was a music video with a sensational message that includes his concept of a Carole Baskin look-alike. His video charged that 23 years in the past, Baskin murdered her husband Don Lewis and fed him to their tigers.

Carole Baskin has denied the allegation vigorously and repeatedly.

However thousands and thousands of viewers noticed the video and instantly the warmth was turned up on a chilly case: what occurred to Carole’s husband, Don Lewis? The present even lit a hearth below the native sheriff’s workplace.

Cpl. Moise Garcia | Hillsborough County, Fla: We re-interviewed all people and have checked out new proof and proceed to research.

Investigators say solely two individuals have declined to be interviewed by regulation enforcement, one in all them is Carole Baskin.

Cpl. Moise Garcia: Carole is taken into account a suspect and an individual of curiosity.

It was 40 years in the past that Carole first grew to become an individual of curiosity to Don Lewis.

 Like so many Florida tales, their story begins like a pulp fiction novel any respected writer would reject.  It begins on an unusually chilly evening in 1981 in Tampa. Carole was nonetheless an adolescent, and in a foul marriage. She discovered herself wandering in tears down a foremost avenue in the midst of the evening, and simply then, 42-year-old Don drove by in his truck. He had stepped out of the house he shared along with his spouse Gladys.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis

Donna Pettis

Gladys Lewis Cross: We had had an argument. And — he left dwelling, and — was headed to a different girlfriend’s home for the evening, which I discovered later. However he was goin’ down … the … avenue, and right here was a reasonably blonde, and he or she was cryin’. And he informed me that he stopped and — she acquired within the truck with him, and so they spent the evening collectively. 

Richard Schlesinger: I am sorry, so he was on his option to one other girlfriend’s home when — 

Gladys Lewis Cross: Sure. 

Richard Schlesinger: — he met — 

Gladys Lewis Cross: Uh-huh [affirms].

Richard Schlesinger: — Carole and took her — 

Gladys Lewis Cross: Sure. 

Richard Schlesinger: — to a — 

Gladys Lewis Cross: Sure. 

Richard Schlesinger: — resort or a motel and — 

Gladys Lewis Cross: Sure. 

Richard Schlesinger: Wow. He was busy. 

Gladys Lewis Cross: Sure, he was. 

Don Lewis was busy with two foremost pursuits: cash and ladies. Lengthy earlier than he picked up Carole that evening on the road, he met Gladys. She was simply 13 when he observed her buying along with her mom.

Gladys Lewis Cross: And I appeared up, and I believed, “Woo, he certain is sweet trying.” After which he winked at me … And I circled to see who he may be lookin’ at, and there was nobody there. So, I mentioned, “I suppose that was me.” 

Somewhat greater than a yr later, Gladys and Don married. He was 17, with little or no cash, however very huge plans. 

Gladys Lewis Cross: He may tear something aside, put it again collectively.

Don labored onerous, fixing damaged equipment. He made sufficient cash to purchase and develop a trucking enterprise. Then he began shopping for and promoting Florida actual property. And alongside the way in which, he met Anne McQueen.   

Anne McQueen: Don took anyone …with an eighth-grade schooling and taught them the way to handle a multimillion-dollar enterprise.

McQueen saved the books and helped run issues. They have been fairly a group. Ultimately, Lewis was value — in line with his lawyer — between $5 and $10 million. However you’d by no means realize it. He did enterprise out of a used trailer on an empty lot, he wearing previous denims and low cost T-shirts, and his money administration system was quaint.   

Richard Schlesinger: What about burying cash on the property? Did he do this? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: Sure, he did. 

Richard Schlesinger: That is form of an fascinating factor to do. 

Gladys Lewis Cross: Nicely, anyone would pay him money, and he’d love having money round, so we would put it in a jar and simply dig a gap below the little crimson barn we had.

Richard Schlesinger: I imply, the place I am from, individuals who need money ceaselessly go to the ATM. They do not go to just a little crimson barn. Why do you suppose he did not wish to go to the financial institution? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: Nicely, he had loads of cash within the financial institution too, so … 

Don and Gladys raised a household. Their three daughters, Lynda, Donna, and Gale bear in mind their childhoods as blissful.  

Don Lewis was married to Gladys Lewis when he first met Carole in 1981. Gladys and Don raised a household [pictured]. Their daughters say that they had a contented childhood and that their father had a ardour for animals.

Donna Pettis

Donna Pettis: He was dwelling each evening. We at all times had dinner. 

It was additionally a bit uncommon; largely as a result of Don had a factor for animals— largely wild ones. 

Gale Rathbone: I would not name it passionate. I might name it an obsession.  … We might come dwelling from faculty, and there’d be a child alligator swimming within the bathtub. There have been — ferrets and raccoons and horses and cows and — 

Donna Pettis: And a penguin and a monkey. 

Gale Rathbone: Dad actually beloved animals. 

However his daughters by no means knew about that different love of Don’s:  girls — and never simply their mom Gladys.

Richard Schlesinger:  Was he a superb husband?

Gladys Lewis Cross: He was till I might get a name and say he is seein’ somebody. 

Richard Schlesinger: Ooh. Nicely, that is — pardon me, that does not sound like a superb husband. 

Gladys Lewis Cross: He was. 

Richard Schlesinger: Up till that time?

Gladys Lewis Cross: Sure 

Richard Schlesinger: Could I be just a little rude and ask you if you realize roughly what number of girls he was seeing moreover you? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: In the event you’re talkin’ about the entire 34 years I used to be married to him — probably 25. 

Richard Schlesinger: Forgive me once more for asking, however how did that make you are feeling? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: Nicely, once I would discover out, I might inform him I used to be leaving, and he would say, “There will be no extra.” 

Richard Schlesinger: Did you imagine him? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: In fact, at the moment. And as years glided by, no. … It’s important to make up your thoughts — to reside in that state of affairs or let it drive you loopy.  

Gladys was fairly good about dwelling with a serial philanderer. After which Don Lewis met Carole.  

Richard Schlesinger: Was there any sense when he met her that she was totally different than the opposite 24 or some odd girls? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: No. She was— she was identical to the opposite 25. However — I might say extra grasping, as a result of she did discover out that he had cash 

Richard Schlesinger: What do you consider her? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: You actually need me to reply that? 

Richard Schlesinger:  I might wish to. 

Gladys Lewis Cross: I feel she’s the worst factor that ever was born in america of America. 

Richard Schlesinger: Wow. You do not mince phrases. 

Gladys Lewis Cross: No. And there is extra if you need them. 

Carole Baskin and Don Lewis
Carole Baskin and Don Lewis

Tampa Bay Occasions/ZUMA Press

Don and Carole had been seeing one another for about 10 years when Gladys determined she’d had sufficient. She and Don lastly divorced in 1990. A yr later, Don married Carole and earlier than lengthy, the brand new Mr. and Mrs. Lewis had a brand new enterprise. They purchased a bunch of massive cats and put them on exhibit at a spot known as Wildlife on Simple Road. 

Don’s former lawyer, Joseph Fritz.

Joseph Fritz: He’d take a chair and sit within the yard with … 10, 12 bobcats, and throughout him, and him playin’ with him prefer it was a family pet. 

However earlier than lengthy, there was problem on Simple Road. Don and Carole weren’t getting alongside.

Gladys Lewis Cross: He informed me then, he mentioned, “I need you to know proper now, do not you or the ladies or any of the grandkids or anyone be left within the room along with her alone.” 

After which, after solely 6 years of marriage, Don Lewis simply vanished. 

CAROLE BASKIN [WTSP news report]: He would not stroll away and depart his cats. He would not stroll away and depart his enterprise. I discover it onerous to imagine he’d stroll away and depart me.  


Within the days earlier than he went lacking, Don Lewis was planning to go to Costa Rica to promote some used vehicles and vans.

Anne McQueen: He was speculated to go and get me some VIN numbers and speculated to name me again, and he did not.

Richard Schlesinger: Was that like him? I imply, did he do this ceaselessly? 

Anne McQueen: No. Don and I spoke every day.  

Anne McQueen: I lastly — reached Carole… I kinda requested her if she knew the place her husband was. And — her reply to me was, no, that she hadn’t seen him since — the day earlier than. … And he or she requested me if I believed that she ought to name the police. And I feel I made a smart-aleck comment and mentioned somethin’, like, “You suppose?  Yeah … you have to do this.” 

There have been some not-so-subtle indicators that there have been issues in Don and Carole’s marriage. There was that cryptic warning Gladys mentioned she was given to not be alone with Carole. And Don’s daughter, Donna, had sensed hassle between the 2.  

Donna Pettis: He thought she was loopy. 

Richard Schlesinger: Loopy? 

Donna Pettis: Mm-hmm. He did not — like the way in which she spent cash.  

The couple additionally reportedly fought about what to do with the animals. Carole wished to maintain them and make Simple Road a sanctuary. Don, so the story goes, wished to breed and promote them. He had talked about getting a divorce, and if he had gone via with it, it may have been expensive, says Don’s lawyer Joe Fritz.

Richard Schlesinger: So, she would’ve misplaced a substantial sum of money? 

Joseph Fritz: Hundreds of thousands. 

Richard Schlesinger: That is appreciable. 

Joseph Fritz: That is appreciable. 

The couple made some huge cash whereas they have been collectively. Nevertheless it turned on the market have been extra indicators of hassle. After Don disappeared, Anne McQueen says she remembered a sealed envelope that he had given her two months earlier. 

Anne McQueen: He got here to the workplace, and he was agitated, and he gave me an envelope. And he mentioned, “Take this. Hold it in a protected place “… He both mentioned, “Take it to the police, otherwise you’ll know what to do with it — if something ever occurs.” 

Anne McQueen: I took it dwelling…. I did not suppose something about it.  

However after Don went lacking, Anne says she opened the envelope.  

Anne McQueen: He was asking the decide for a restraining order.  

Simply months earlier than he disappeared, Don tried unsuccessfully to get a restraining order in opposition to Carole, telling the decide: “… Carole has gotten indignant sufficient to threaten to kill me. … She has a .45 revolver and he or she took my .357.” 

Richard Schlesinger: Do you bear in mind the way you felt once you learn the stuff about how he — she threatened to kill him? 

Anne McQueen: I began shakin’.  

Richard Schlesinger: Did you really begin shaking? 

Anne McQueen: I am shaking now. 

Anne says she took the doc to the sheriff’s workplace and whereas she was there the burglar alarm went off at Don’s workplace. Carole had set it off. In line with the Tampa Bay Occasions, Carole acquired in with assist from her father and Don’s handyman, a person named Kenny Farr, and when Anne acquired again to the workplace, she says she was shocked.

Anne McQueen: Every little thing was gone. Every little thing that was in my desk was gone.

Together with, she says, Don’s will and energy of legal professional. Police mentioned Carole’s motion was authorized. In spite of everything, she was Don’s spouse. However Don’s daughters have been suspicious. 

Lynda Sanchez: Nicely, to us it is very odd. She could also be a partner, however she didn’t have a key in any respect to the gate or the workplace. So that claims loads proper there.  

However that is not the one odd factor. Carole gave an interview to the tv present “Onerous Copy,” suggesting Don may need had some form of dementia:

CAROLE BASKIN [in tears on “Hard Copy”]: Perhaps he would not know who he’s. Perhaps he would not know the place to name dwelling. 

However Don’s lawyer Joseph Fritz says Don had no reminiscence issues.   

Joe Fritz: Completely none.  

Richard Schlesinger: Did you see him shortly earlier than he disappeared?  

Joe Fritz: I noticed him at the very least each week and typically two or 3 times.

Don Lewis ‘ daughters, from left, Lynda Sanchez, Donna Pettis and Gale Rathbone

CBS Information

And Don’s household would not imagine Carole was actually apprehensive about Don, partly, as a result of they are saying weeks after he disappeared, she canceled Don’s cellphone account.

Gale Rathbone: If an individual — at first, your husband, you suppose he has dementia, he is acquired Alzheimer’s, and now he is lacking, do you flip his cellphone off after two or three weeks of him being lacking? His solely lifeline to achieve you? 

Donna Pettis:  She turned it off. Three weeks after … 

Gale Rathbone: Cancelled the account. 

Because the weeks became months, Carole supplied one other chance. As a substitute of Costa Rica, perhaps Don was below arrest in Mexico and could not name her.   

CAROLE BASKIN [WTSP news report]: The one place I nonetheless have not appeared that I really feel considerably hopeful of having the ability to discover him alive is gonna be Mexico, and I do not understand how onerous or how lengthy that’ll take.

REPORTER: You suppose perhaps a jail? 

CAROLE BASKIN: Yeah. I can not consider anything that may preserve him away this lengthy … I discover it onerous to imagine he’d stroll away and depart me.

Don’s household started to suppose the worst — that Don was lifeless, and that Carole performed a task in his loss of life.

Gladys Lewis Cross
Gladys Lewis Cross

CBS Information

Richard Schlesinger: What was your first thought? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: I might like to let you know, however I higher not. 

Richard Schlesinger: Are you able to give me a touch? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: You’ve got acquired it. 

Richard Schlesinger: You thought it was her? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: I can not say that. 

Richard Schlesinger: Would I be flawed in assuming that that was your first thought? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: Perhaps. 

Richard Schlesinger: Perhaps I might be flawed? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: Perhaps you may be proper. 

After which, the case took a flip. Police discovered Don’s van deserted at a distant airport; the keys have been reportedly nonetheless in it. Keep in mind, Don had been planning to go to Costa Rica for work.

Gale Rathbone: There’s the speculation that he simply acquired bored with all the pieces and jumped in an airplane and flew to Costa Rica and drove up the mountain and resides fortunately ever after there.  

Don had owned a number of planes and he beloved to fly. 

Joe Solan has flown tons of of hours in a single sort of aircraft that Don Lewis preferred to fly: a Piper Arrow 3.

Joe Solan: You possibly can roughly get about 700 miles to a full tank, the 2 foremost tanks full.

Richard Schlesinger: So, if, say you have been going to go from the Tampa space all the way down to Costa Rica. It isn’t a nonstop flight.

Joe Solan: No, no [laughs].

Richard Schlesinger: In order that’s like what number of refueling stops? 

Joe Solan: Oh, in all probability three to at 4 least.

If he did refuel, nobody appears to find out about it. Apart from, Don’s household says he would by no means simply take off and depart them. But when Don did not simply fly off to start a brand new life someplace, what was his van doing on the airport?  

Joe Fritz: I’ve heard, on the time … that he was strangled from the backseat of an airplane with an electrical twine and pushed out 50 ft over the Gulf. 

Was lacking millionaire Don Lewis pushed from…


Correspondent Richard Schlesinger can be a pilot and flies the identical sort of aircraft Don usually flew.

Richard Schlesinger [flying plane]: To begin with, think about the wrestle concerned in strangling a 170-pound man on this passenger seat. Then, if the plan was to push him out the door, that is a problem. The slowest this airplane can fly is about 65 mph, and which means winds approaching hurricane energy could be pushing in opposition to this door attempting to maintain it closed. You’d need to open it. You’d need to preserve it open, and also you’d need to by some means wrestle the physique out of right here with out interfering with the flight controls. Backside line: I suppose you can do it, however there are simpler methods to eliminate a physique.  

And there was no proof that any of Don’s planes have been lacking. So, if it is unlikely Don Lewis was pushed out of a small airplane. The place was he?


In the summertime of 1997, Carole spoke with the native Fox TV station.  

CAROLE BASKIN [Fox interview]: I am very apprehensive. … It is only a feeling … that he’s OK, that he’ll simply stroll again within the gate.  

However Don by no means did.

Alex Spiro: It is very onerous within the twenty first century to go lacking, lacking as a middle-aged man who has a really lively mobile information, banking information, et cetera.

Alex Spiro is an legal professional. A former New York Metropolis prosecutor, he is now working for Don Lewis’ daughters.

Richard Schlesinger: There’re all types of— theories about what may need occurred — to Don. One in all them — was that he was tossed out of an airplane. Do you discover that credible?

Alex Spiro: Typically in high-profile instances, individuals provide you with fanciful theories of, you realize, tigers, lions, bears, and airplanes. I imply, there’s often an easier clarification of issues.

Spiro says the best factor of all is to begin with the timeline of the day Don Lewis vanished.  

Alex Spiro: There is a crucial window right here the place — Don Lewis went lacking. The place the rubber meets the street is what occurred throughout these 24 hours.

So, what occurred the throughout these 24 hours? Carole says she final noticed Don Lewis early within the morning of August 18, 1997, when she got here dwelling from working a late-night errand. 

Leonora LePeter Anton:  She would not discuss to us in individual this time. So, she despatched us a pair — a diary entries.

Leonora LePeter Anton is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Tampa Bay Occasions and a CBS Information marketing consultant.

Leonora LaPeter Anton: And one in all them was … what she did that evening … the Sunday, August seventeenth, 1997.

Carole says that late that Sunday evening earlier than Don went lacking, she wanted milk and provides for her wild cats.

Leonora LaPeter Anton: … at 11:00, you realize, she had these kittens that have been in the home. There was a bobcat kitten and two caracal kittens. And — she did not have sufficient components for the milk.

In her diaries, Carole says she left Don and drove to a grocery store about six miles away, however the retailer was closed.

After which, the story takes one other twist. She says her automobile broke down. Carole says she walked all the way in which dwelling. It took her till almost 4 a.m.

Leonora LaPeter Anton: After which when she acquired dwelling, Don wished to instantly return and get the automobile. So, at 4 within the morning, they went again. He put some water — he was— she wasn’t in a position to get the radiator cap off earlier. He acquired the radiator cap off, put water in it. After which they drove dwelling

Leonora LaPeter Anton:  Two hours later, she noticed him within the doorway, and he was leaving. And he — you realize, he simply — he simply left.

Leonora LaPeter Anton: And that is the final time she noticed him.

Don’s ex-wife has her doubts about that story.

Gladys Lewis Cross: I do not suppose she was goin’ to purchase milk, no, OK?

Richard Schlesinger: You don’t?

Gladys Lewis Cross: No. She wasn’t goin’ to go purchase milk.

Richard Schlesinger: Do you suppose that she was as much as no good that evening?

Gladys Lewis Cross: Might be.

What occurred subsequent has raised much more suspicions. After Don disappeared, Carole produced what she mentioned was Don’s will and energy of legal professional leaving her accountable for all the pieces. However Don’s household says his signature on these paperwork is cast. 

Richard Schlesinger: Would I be flawed in assuming that you just imagine that Carole was concerned in making up … the need and the facility of legal professional? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: You can be.

Richard Schlesinger: I might be flawed? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: You can be proper. 

Richard Schlesinger: If she was concerned, why would she wish to have Don Lewis killed? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: M-O-N-E-Y [spells out word]. 

Richard Schlesinger: Cash? 

Gladys Lewis Cross: In fact. That occurs on a regular basis, the world we reside in at this time.

Leonora LaPeter Anton had 4 handwriting specialists look at Don’s signature on the facility of legal professional. All mentioned the signature didn’t look genuine.  

Leonora LaPeter Anton: Two of them mentioned they felt it was traced from the 1991 marriage license between Don and Carole. And that — that principally they have been, you realize, not correct Don Lewis signatures. 

However Carole says the signatures have been authenticated again in 1997 and are actual.

The Tampa Bay Occasions additionally appeared into Don’s former righthand man, Kenny Farr. Keep in mind, he reportedly helped Carole get into Don’s workplace that day.  

Leonora LaPeter Anton: He was principally his — a jack-of-all-trades, his right-hand man. After which … after Don Lewis disappeared, he went and labored with Carole Baskin. 

Trish Farr-Payne: He was driving one in all Don’s vans. Don’s blue van.

Kenny Farr and Trish Farr-Payne
Kenny Farr and Trish Farr-Payne

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Workplace/CBS Information

Trish Farr-Payne was married to Kenny for five years. In her first ever TV interview, she informed “48 Hours” that two days earlier than Don Lewis was reported lacking, Farr got here dwelling with Don Lewis’ van – and inside there was a pile of weapons.

Trish Farr-Payne: He mentioned, “Assist me carry these in.” We carried ’em in, we put ’em below the mattress, we put ’em within the closet, we put ’em within the little toilet we had in our room. I used to be, like, “Whoa — the place did you get these?” He mentioned, “Hear, I — I am — I am hangin’ on to those proper now for Carole.” However — he mentioned, Don’s gone. And— I do not need you talkin’ about him.” 

Richard Schlesinger: Did you ask him what he meant by, “Don’s gone”? 

Trish Farr-Payne: No, not proper then. As a result of … he would blow up actual straightforward at me … I simply did not query it. 

Later that week, she heard on the information that Don had gone lacking.

Trish Farr-Payne: Every little thing began kinda coming collectively. Kenny’s acquired Don’s van, Kenny’s acquired Don’s weapons — Don’s gone, and I knew Don was gone the day earlier than he supposedly was lacking. It — one thing wasn’t proper. 

She says she was too afraid to ask Kenny, however it was onerous to disregard some very unusual issues. Like the massive freezer with a padlock that she says appeared on their porch across the time Don disappeared. After which, she says, the freezer vanished.

Richard Schlesinger: How lengthy after Don disappeared did the freezer disappear?

Trish Farr-Payne:  A few week after Don disappeared.

However Trish says she waited years to inform police about her suspicions.

Trish Farr-Payne: I used to be afraid for my children. , I had my children. I used to be afraid for them. I used to be extra afraid for them than something. 

She says he made that one risk that was particularly scary and weird … and perhaps revealing.

Trish Farr-Payne: Kenny had threatened to place me in a grinder. He mentioned, “In the event you attempt to depart me once more, I am gonna put you within the grinder, like I did Don.”

Richard Schlesinger: I am sorry, he mentioned what? 

Trish Farr-Payne: He mentioned, “In the event you attempt to depart me once more, I’ll put you within the grinder, like I did Don.” 

Richard Schlesinger: In a meat grinder? 

Trish Farr-Payne: Yeah. … I believed he was tellin’ the reality. … I knew deep down that Kenny has some half in Don’s not ever coming again. I knew then for certain.

 Richard Schlesinger:  My goodness, so— so that you— y— you form of thought at that time that you just have been dwelling with a assassin.

Trish Farr-Payne:  Yeah.

Three years after Don went lacking, within the midst of her divorce from Kenny Farr, Trish says she lastly informed the police all the pieces. Kenny Farr would not discuss with “48 Hours” on digicam, however informed us Trish’s story is, as he put it, “[an] outlandish lie.” 

He says, “I had completely nothing to do with Don’s disappearance.”

Farr additionally says he cooperated with police on the time of Don’s disappearance and even took a polygraph.

Now, legal professional Alex Spiro says he is discovered some new witnesses.

Richard Schlesinger: Have you ever met these witnesses?

Alex Spiro: Sure.

Richard Schlesinger: And also you imagine them?

Alex Spiro: Sure.


Richard Schlesinger: Do you think about Trish Farr-Payne credible?

Alex Spiro: Sure.

Lawyer Alex Spiro has been investigating the disappearance of Don Lewis for months.  He would not wish to say a lot as a result of his investigation remains to be occurring.  However he’ll say there’s been some progress. 

Richard Schlesinger: Has there been a brand new witness who’s surfaced who can shed vital mild on what occurred or corroborate Trish Farr-Payne’s model of what occurred or simply clear up a few of these unclear issues?

Alex Spiro: There have been, sure.

Richard Schlesinger: If that is true, you are a heck of loads nearer to determining what occurred than many individuals would possibly know.

Alex Spiro: I wish to suppose I am nearer to determining what occurred than many individuals would know, sure.

The apparent query is what about Carole Baskin?

Carole Baskin
Carole Baskin

Tampa Bay Occasions/ZUMA Press

After Don’s disappearance in 1997, Carole Lewis carried on at her sanctuary, Wildlife on Simple Road.

On August 19, 2002, 5 years to the day Don Lewis was reported lacking, Carole had a decide declare Don lifeless. Regularly, the investigation into his whereabouts went chilly.

 In 2004, Carol acquired married once more; this time to Howard Baskin, a businessman. And the ceremony was uncommon even by Florida requirements, maybe.

Leonora LaPeter Anton: Howard wore like, a toga – a tiger-patterned toga. And was like a caveman. And … he got here to her on the seashore. And he or she hit him over the top with a plastic bat. After which he picked her up and threw her over his shoulder. After which, apparently, she put a leash round his neck … , it isn’t how I woulda executed my wedding ceremony, however – [laughs].  

Carole Lewis grew to become Carole Baskin. And Wildlife On Simple Road acquired a brand new title, too: Huge Cat Rescue.

Leonora LaPeter Anton: Howard has an MBA and a regulation diploma. And he form of introduced – a enterprise sense to Huge Cat Rescue. … He introduced in, like, a Washington lobbyist. He knew individuals locally. He principally was actually good at getting donations. 

The group’s mission additionally modified. There was no extra breeding or shopping for huge cats.

Carole is an animal rights advocate, somebody who believes nobody ought to personal a wild cat – not even herself. She spoke about it in a 2018 interview with CBS affiliate WTSP.

CAROLE BASKIN [WTSP news report]: Our mission is to place ourselves out of enterprise as a result of there should not need to be a spot rescuing lions and tigers from those who get them as pets. 

Carole ultimately went after Joseph Maldonado-Passage  you realize him as Joe Unique – an unique animal proprietor in Oklahoma. In 2010, she tried to cease him from taking his child tigers to buying malls across the nation and charging cash for footage.

Joe Exotic
Joe Unique

AP Pictures

Joe fought again and tried to take the title of Carole’s group and make it his personal. So, Carole sued him.

JOE EXOTIC [Joe Exotic TV YouTube page]: She has spent over a million-and-a-half {dollars} simply attempting to close me down.

She received. And a decide ordered Mr. Unique to pay Carole almost $1 million. And that solely added extra gasoline to their feud.

JOE EXOTIC [Joe Exotic TV YouTube page]:  I am already so goddamn poor, I exploit a file cupboard for my dresser drawers. … [Fires gun.]

Joe took to his YouTube channel – Joe Unique TV – to air his grievances in his personal unique manner.

JOE EXOTIC [Joe Exotic TV YouTube page]: Are you able to imagine they spent sufficient time to construct one other total web site about me? 

For Joe, nothing was off limits and he gleefully revived these suspicions about Don Lewis’ disappearance.

JOE EXOTIC [Joe Exotic TV YouTube page]: Phrase has it that Carole snuck up on Don in the midst of the evening and beat him within the head …

Joe made that music video with a girl who was speculated to be a Carole Baskin look-alike –pushing that unsubstantiated idea that she fed her husband Don to the tigers. 

Joe’s hatred of Carole Baskin began feeding on itself and getting extra violent.

JOE EXOTIC [Joe Exotic TV YouTube page]: You suppose I am obsessed? With you?! Get a life …

JOE EXOTIC [Joe Exotic TV YouTube page]: Carole Baskin higher by no means, ever … see me head to head… 

CAROLE BASKIN [WTSP news report]: He is posted footage of an effigy of me hanging and pointing a gun to my head.

And Joe Unique might have executed greater than faux to kill Carole.  In 2019, he was convicted of, amongst different issues, hiring a success man to truly kill her.

Joe Exotic arrest photo
Joe Unique was sentenced to 22 years in jail for his involvement in a murder-for-hire plot to kill Carole Baskin, in addition to wildlife violations. 

Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Workplace

He acquired 22 years. In the meantime, Carole had a brand new idea on who may be liable for her ex-husband’s disappearance.

CAROLE BASKIN [Video diary, October 1, 1997]: She clawed his face up fairly badly. He mentioned he needed to virtually knock her out to get the gun away from her as a result of she was so intent on killing him.


In January 2021, then-President Donald Trump held the keys to Joe Unique’s jail cell. His authorized group hoped for a full presidential pardon.

ATTORNEY ERIC LOVE: I feel we will get the pardon, I do. I am 100% certain.

A really stretched limo waited close to his federal jail, able to whisk the “Tiger King” away from captivity. However the limo left empty; there was no pardon.

Joe Unique’s case is closed, however Hillsborough County, Florida, Sheriff Chad Chronister nonetheless would not know what occurred to Don Lewis. He thinks Don was murdered and multiple individual may be concerned.

 Sheriff Chad Chronister: This rich particular person left and left his wealth behind — left his cash behind. , when’s the final time …  you’ve got ever heard somebody leaving with out their wealth behind.

However the more unusual theories about what occurred are an excessive amount of even for a lawman in Florida. 

Sheriff Chad Chronister: They talked in regards to the meat grinder, and that the meat grinders have been used to feed the cats … Nicely, the meat grinders had been faraway from the property, you realize, a number of weeks earlier than his disappearance. I am not saying they could not have been concerned, however they weren’t on the property.

With all these uncertainties and people thousands and thousands of “Tiger King” viewers demanding solutions, the sheriff ordered his group to take a brand new take a look at the case.

 Det. Moise Garcia: Because of “Tiger King” we contacted and adopted up on nicely over 200 leads.

Moise Garcia is a murder detective for Hillsborough County. He says all these suggestions did not assist a lot.

Cpl. Moise Garcia:  A considerable amount of these nearly ineffective.

And Garcia says a few of his efforts at investigation have been blocked by Carole.

Cpl. Moise Garcia: Within the first “Tiger King” there have been rumors that Don Lewis was buried in a septic tank or beneath a septic tank on the property … we wished to go on the property go searching … however we weren’t allowed entry. … it’s irritating. I might wish to get on that property and go searching just a little bit.

Detectives additionally say they’ve additionally been unable to interview Carole Baskin.

Cpl. Moise Garcia: She does lots of interviews … the place she says sheriff’s workplace has not even approached her. That may be very irritating when you realize you’ve got approached her a number of occasions and you’ve got been informed “No.”

Cpl. Moise Garcia: Most lacking individual’s wives, spouses, they cooperate with regulation enforcement.

Carole’s alleged lack of latest cooperation does appear to have elevated the sheriff’s deal with her.

Cpl. Moise Garcia: The one individuals who have refused to be interviewed has been Carole Baskin and Kenny Farr.

Carole Baskin

Tampa Bay Occasions/ZUMA Press

In an interview with “TMZ,” Carole mentioned since Don went lacking, she has launched scores of paperwork and executed many interviews. “TMZ” reviews Carole mentioned she has nothing new to inform detectives and is declining to talk to Investigator Garcia on recommendation of her lawyer. However she did e-mail “48 Hours” saying Trish Farr-Payne’s story about Kenny is fake. 

She known as Trish’s description of the meat grinder, “ludicrous and clearly fabricated.” 

And as for Don’s household’s accusations that she cancelled Don’s cellphone simply weeks after he disappeared, she says that by no means occurred, and he or she informed “48 Hours,” relating to the household, “they’re liars.”

And Carole says Don’s allegation that she threatened his life is simply made up.

CAROLE BASKIN [Video diary]: The decide denied his utility saying Don wasn’t in any fast hazard.

She says she by no means threatened Don, and he solely sought a restraining order to cease her from throwing out mountains of stuff he had collected.

However Carole says she might know who did threaten Don. It is an explosive allegation: Carole says it is Gladys – Don’s ex-wife — who may be the true villain.

Don and Gladys Lewis
Don and Gladys Lewis

Gale Rathbone

In line with Carole, Gladys was indignant over a lawsuit she filed in opposition to Don after their divorce. She sued him for 1,000,000 {dollars}, however Gladys misplaced.

CAROLE BASKIN [Video diary, October 1, 1997]: May she have been so indignant over not getting the million {dollars} extra that she thought she would get, that she would kill Don in a last-ditch effort to get better the cash she felt he owed her for all of her struggling?

The Lewis household’s new legal professional Alex Spiro says that is nonsense.

Alex Spiro: I’ve seen no credible proof that the Lewis household has something to do with Don Lewis’s disappearance.

If all the eye is tough on Carole, she’s made essentially the most of it. “Tiger King” has made her a queen. She was on “Dancing with the Stars,” and he or she’s simply come out with a brand new documentary on the streaming channel Discovery Plus, known as “Carol Baskin’s Cage Battle.” 

As for the Don Lewis case, his household remains to be hopeful. They usually say after greater than 20 years, the publicity round “Tiger King” has has modified all the pieces — with extra suggestions and leads coming in daily. 

Gale Rathbone: We really feel — actually, we really feel like we have now a military of angels behind us …

Richard Schlesinger: Is Joe Unique a type of angels (laughs)?

Donna Pettis: He may be main the entire band (laughs).


Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Workplace

When you have any data on the Don Lewis case, please name the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Workplace at (813) 247-8200.

Joe Unique says he has been identified with prostate most cancers. He stays in jail

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