No, there isn’t evidence Carole Baskin’s husband has been found alive

A 2021 interview in which “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin claimed her husband was found alive in Costa Rica recently resurfaced. Police say he’s still missing.

Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue and star of the 2020 Netflix documentary “Tiger King,” was trending again recently amid claims her husband, Don Lewis, was found alive.

Lewis went missing in 1997 and was declared legally dead in 2002. Baskin was accused in the Netflix documentary of murdering her husband and feeding him to the tigers at one of her Florida animal sanctuaries. Baskin denied being involved in her husband’s disappearance, and has never been charged in his disappearance.

But a clip from a 2021 interview with Baskin on British television network “ITV” recently resurfaced; in it, Baskin claimed Lewis was found “alive and well” in Costa Rica. 

After the interview resurfaced online, people on social media said they were shocked by the latest development. Fashion magazine Cosmopolitan ran a story titled: “So, it turns out Carole Baskin's 'dead' husband has been found alive and well…”

THE QUESTION

Is there any evidence that Carole Baskin’s husband was found alive?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, there isn’t evidence Carole Baskin’s husband has been found alive.

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WHAT WE FOUND

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) is leading the investigation into Don Lewis’ disappearance and told VERIFY via email on Jan. 19 that Don Lewis remains a missing person. Even though Lewis was declared dead in 2002, the case was reopened in 2020 in response to the “Tiger King”series.

“We have not received any communication from our federal partners that confirms the location of missing person Mr. Don Lewis,” the email said. “The investigation into Don Lewis’ disappearance remains a priority for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), as do all missing person cases.”

The U.S. State Department,  which keeps track of U.S. citizens who are missing abroad, told VERIFY in an email that reports of Lewis being found in Costa Rica are “unconfirmed.”

The State Department declined to comment further on the matter. 

During a 2021 press conference, HCSO lead detective Cpl. Moises Garcia declined to comment on claims Lewis was ever in Costa Rica. He also said the sheriff’s office conducted more than 20 hours worth of interviews since reopening the case into Lewis’ disappearance, and Baskin refused to be interviewed.

VERIFY partner station WTSP reported Garcia has refused to talk about alleged sightings that put Lewis in Costa Rica. He says they have checked flight records, passport entries, even worked with forensic experts at USF to produce age-progression photos. But as to whether he was actually seen there, Garcia declined to comment.

VERIFY reached out to authorities in Costa Rica but did not hear back at the time of publishing.

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