TV & Movies

Every Theory About What Happened To Tiger King's Don Lewis

Carole Baskin's husband disappeared in 1997.

A still of Don Lewis' wife Carole Baskin from 'Tiger King' via the Netflix press site

There's one question still lingering on the minds of Tiger King fans: what happened to Don Lewis, who disappeared in 1997? Since the Netflix show premiered in March, viewers have glommed onto the theory put forth repeatedly by Joe Exotic: that Lewis' wife, Carole Baskin, killed him and fed him to the tigers at her animal sanctuary. But Baskin has fervently denied the claims, and law enforcement ruled her out as a suspect during the investigation.

Over 20 years later, Lewis' family is still looking for answers: they ran an ad during Dancing With the Stars, on which Baskin is competing, asking for information and again insinuating that Baskin may have been involved. But there are a number of other theories about what happened to Lewis, too.

He Started A New Life In Costa Rica

Lewis knew how to fly a plane. He owned property in Costa Rica. His van was found abandoned at an airport after he disappeared. And he had told friends that he planned on moving to the Central American country, according to a 1998 People magazine feature. This all points to Lewis simply deciding to start a new life south of the border. But there are problems with the theory: chiefly, that Lewis' Costa Rica property was thoroughly searched by investigators, who found no trace of him.

He Crashed His Plane

Going hand-in-hand with the Costa Rica theory, some have speculated that Lewis died in a plane crash. This would explain why his credit cards were never used again after his disappearance, and why no sign of his body — living or dead — has ever surfaced. Baskin also claimed that Lewis had crashed planes thrice before, so it's not like he had a sterling record as a pilot.


He Was Killed By A Drug Cartel

A theory posted on Reddit posits that Lewis was pushed out of a plane over the Gulf of Mexico by drug dealers. Their logic follows the same evidence that suggests Lewis flew somewhere when he disappeared, while also putting stock in a statement by Lewis' former handyman Kenny Farr, who claimed Lewis told him he would be pulling off the "slickest thing he'd ever done" the night before he disappeared. Finally, the theory speculates that Lewis was able to make his mysterious millions by smuggling drugs from south of the border, and that a deal must have gone bad while out on what would be his final run. Around the time of his disappearance, rumors swirled that Lewis was pushed out of a plane. However, CBS investigated the possibility of this happening and found it unlikely.

He Was Murdered As Part Of A Bogus Plane Deal

Lewis' lawyer, Joseph Fritz, also thinks Lewis was pushed out of a plane. He told Fox Nation's Nancy Grace in an April, 2020 interview that he believes Lewis was lured to the airport under the guise of buying a plane, but once on the plane, he was strangled and thrown overboard. Lewis declined to name a murder suspect in the interview, but claimed Baskin hasn't been truthful about what she knows.

Kenny Farr Killed Him

In the Sept. 9 episode of CBS' 48 Hours, Farr's ex-wife Trish Farr-Payne alleged that her former husband admitted to killing Lewis. She claimed that Farr was in possession of Lewis' van and guns the day before his disappearance was announced, and that that he told her "Don's gone" and to not ask questions about him. She also alleged that a mysterious padlocked freezer showed up on their porch around the same time as Lewis' disappearance and then vanished. And most damning of all, she accused Farr of once threatening to put her "in the (meat) grinder, like I did Don." Farr denied any knowledge of what happened to Lewis in an email to CBS.

Could one of these theories to explain what happened to Don Lewis? Given that it's been 23 years since anyone saw him, it seems unlikely we'll ever know for sure.