Sheriff: Will of 'Tiger King' star's missing husband forged

Sheriff: Will of 'Tiger King' star's missing husband forged

(Loren Elliott, Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)


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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Someone forged the will of the missing husband of Carole Baskin, a woman prominently featured in Netflix’s “Tiger King" documentary series, a Florida sheriff said.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister told 10 Tampa Bay on Tuesday that two experts had confirmed the will of Jack “Don” Lewis is a forgery. Lewis disappeared in 1997 and was declared dead in 2002. The millionaire's will left most of his estate, including a private Tampa zoo that would eventually become Big Cat Rescue animal sanctuary, to Baskin, cutting out his children from a previous marriage.

Criminal charges aren't expected because the statute of limitations has expired, Chronister said.

“The will had already been executed at that point,” Chronister said. “But, it certainly cast another shadow of suspicion, by all means.”

Lewis's disappearance remains an open case. In March, Chronister announced that the sheriff's office was seeking new leads following the popularity of Netflix's “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”

The documentary is about Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” a former Oklahoma zookeeper who loves guns, younger men, and big cats. He was sentenced earlier this year to 22 years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot. He was convicted of trying to hire someone to kill Baskin, who had tried to shut him down, accusing the Oklahoma zoo of abusing animals and selling big cat cubs.

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In retaliation, Maldonado-Passage raised questions about Lewis' disappearance. The documentary extensively covered Maldonado-Passage’s repeated accusations that Baskin killed her husband and possibly fed him to her tigers. Baskin, who founded Big Cat Rescue, has never been charged with any crime and released a statement refuting the accusations made in the series.

On Monday, a federal judge in Oklahoma awarded ownership of Maldonado-Passage's former zoo to Big Cat Rescue Corp. as part of a civil judgment.

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