Only the cool cats and kittens have found their free time suddenly occupied by the mullet-sporting, throuple-loving, tiger-owning, meth-smoking, and murder-for-hire plot docuseries, Tiger King. Oh, and how could I fail to mention the show’s other half, “That bitch Carole Baskin”?
Even if you haven’t watched the Netflix original for yourself, if you’ve been on social media anytime in the last few weeks (which, unless you’ve been sitting around braiding your leg hairs, you have), chances are likely you’ve picked up on the premise of this trainwreck of a story that’s impossible to look away from.
But in case you’ve been living under a socially-isolated rock, let’s catch you up. The series centers mostly around Joe Exotic (easily recognized by his bleached Joe Dirt mullet and dangling eyebrow ring that sways in the breeze), a former private zoo owner who had a plethora of tigers, and his hatred for animal rights advocate Carole Baskin. The same Carole Baskin who viewers take issue with since her wild cats, located in another private “sanctuary” in Tampa known as Big Cat Sanctuary, are also locked in cages.
And there’s also this one pesky little speculation that she may have killed her second husband, Don Lewis, and fed him to the tigers. Soooo, yep … there’s that!
With the way Carole explains it on camera, Don was a delusional, adulterous millionaire who visited Costa Rica every month on the week she had her menstrual cycle so that he could have sex with other women. But when departing for one of these trips in 1997, he vanished.
One of the main suspects in the case? Carole Baskin.
To be clear, there has yet to be enough evidence for Carole to be charged, either in the ’90s or now, but there’s no denying that some of the happenings before and after her former husband’s disappearance were fishy — or should we say, slicker than sardine oil?
According to Don’s two daughters who were interviewed on the show, Don wasn’t a man who involved the police in civil matters. But a mere two months before his disappearance, he attempted to file a restraining order against Carole, as it was the second time she had become “angry [enough] to threat[en] to kill” him, according to his daughters. His request was denied due to a lack of evidence.
What might also strike some as odd is the way Don’s most recent power of attorney was worded. When someone prepares a power of attorney, it is most often to protect their assets by passing them on to their next of kin. But in the first sentence of Don’s power of attorney, which Joe Exotic claims was prepared by Carole, it says,”The durable family power of attorney shall not be affected by any disability or disappearance.”
“I have, in 37 years, never seen it say, ‘or disappearance.’ Never have,” says Joseph Fritz, Don’s attorney, in the series. “In that respect, this is terribly unusual.”
All of this circumstantial “evidence” combined could lead anyone down the rabbit hole to believe that there was foul play involved in Don’s sudden disappearance, and his daughters certainly didn’t hold back on their theory. Four months into the investigation, his children went to the press with a story that Carole killed Don and fed him to the tigers.
“It’s the perfect scenario to dispose of someone,” Donna Pettis says in an interview with People. “We were upset that the cops didn’t test the DNA on the meat grinder.”
Carole’s response to these accusations?: “My tigers eat meat; they don’t eat people. There would be bones and remains of my husband out there. I’m amazed that people would even think such a thing.” *laughs in Carole*
Five years and two refused polygraphs later, Don was legally declared dead. The next day, Carole assumed his assets.
I mean, holy shit… right?
Tiger King is one fantastically fucked up nightmare of a story that leaves you wanting more, and the twists have no end. For that reason, my inner hillbilly had to know more. So, I hopped on over to Big Cat Rescue’s website.
Given Carole’s bold Lisa Frank wardrobe, I was expecting to see tiger-print web pages. But I wasn’t anticipating a lengthy article (and several videos) entirely devoted to defending the claims against Carole.
“When the directors of the Netflix documentary Tiger King came to us five years ago they said they wanted to make the big cat version of Blackfish (the documentary that exposed abuse at SeaWorld) that would expose the misery caused by the rampant breeding of big cat cubs for cub petting exploitation and the awful life the cats lead in roadside zoos and back yards if they survive,” the article starts off.
If you’ve never seen Blackfish (and I highly suggest it if not), it is equally disturbing and moving in the way it encourages its viewers to take action against the vicious cycle of catching, breeding and keeping orcas in captivity. Well, Tiger King… was nothing like Blackfish. Tiger King is like if Duck Dynasty and Shameless copulated and produced a baby and that baby hung out with hundreds of tigers.
Despite the way Netflix portrayed her, Carole gives an explanation for every single what-in-the-actual-fuck detail and accusation that goes against her.
Pertaining to the restraining order, she claims that Don had filed that after he got wind that Carole was hauling his “junk” off the property while he was in Costa Rica. (If he was leaving me during the week of my period to sleep with other women, I probably would have done that too… I might even have fed him to the tigers myself when he got back, just saying.)
“During the week he was [in Costa Rica], I would haul off the property as I could,” Carole writes. “Wendell (Don’s business associate) told Don I was doing this. Don tried calling the police to stop me. They told him he would need a restraining order.”
But wait, there’s more…
Allegedly, Don had been loaning money to the Helicopter Brothers while he was in Costa Rica — which, at the time, was similar to a local mafia. Because of the dangerous nature of his associations and surroundings, apparently Don’s lawyer in Costa Rica had encouraged him to add in the words “upon my disappearance” to protect Carole and the big cats.
Maybe Don did just disappear out of thin air, but social media isn’t buying it just yet. One of the more widely discussed theories is one that Don’s daughter’s brought to the table: that their father was put through a meat grinder before being fed to the tigers.
In the series, a small clip of an industrial-sized meat grinder is shown, which draws viewers (myself included) to believe that Carole may have gone full out Joe Goldberg on her husband. But, according to Carole, the meat grinder shown in the series isn’t even the kind her animal sanctuary used, or uses today.
“The meat grinder shown in the video was enormous. Our meat grinder was one of those little tabletop, hand crank things, like you’d have in your kitchen at home, like the one pictured here,” Carole’s post says. “Meat had to first be cut into one-inch cubes like you see here to go through it. The idea that a human body and skeleton could be put through it is idiotic. But the Netflix directors did not care. They just showed a bigger grinder.”
So, let’s say that Carole didn’t make Don tiger lunch, or put him through the grinder, or in the septic tank. Still, Carole’s body language when speaking of her husband is just about as questionable as Joe Exotic’s penis piercing … and experts agree.
“When she was asked about threatening him before his disappearance, she compresses her lips,” psychologist and body language expert Bruce Durham explains in an article from Mirror. “This is a universal sign that at that particular moment there’s a narrative going on inside your head — there’s something not being said here.”
Maybe these are far-fetched accusations thrown against Carole in defense of her second husband. Then again, maybe they’re not.
In the same way we will never know what prompted Joe Exotic to believe that his curly mullet has “sex appeal,” we may never know the real truth of what happened to Don Lewis.