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Family of Carole Baskin’s missing ex-husband airs ad during Dancing With The Stars debut


The daughters of Carole Baskin’s first husband trampled on the Tiger King star’s Dancing with the Stars debut last night with an advert offering a $100,000 reward for information about his disappearance.

Don Lewis – who started the animal sanctuary which later became Big Cat Rescue Corp. in Tampa, Florida with Baskin – vanished a day before a scheduled trip to Costa Rica in 1997.

In the Netflix phenomenon Tiger King, Baskin’s rival Joe Exotic raised suspicions she fed her spouse to tigers after Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison for a murder-for-hire plot against her.

Last night as Baskin danced the pasodoble to the Eye of the Tiger, Lewis’s three daughters Gale, Lynda and Donna, along with his former assistant, Anne McQueen, made heartfelt pleas for information about his disappearance.

Last night as Baskin danced the pasodoble to the Eye of the Tiger, Lewis’s three daughters Gale (back right), Lynda (front right) and Donna (back left), along with his former assistant, Anne McQueen (front left), made heartfelt pleas for information about his disappearance as they were joined by family attorney John Phillips

Animal activist: Carole Baskin, 59, a big cat rights activist appeared on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars last night, wearing a tiger print dress and dancing the pasodoble

Baskin is pictured with Lewis. She declined to take a lie detector test in 2011 regarding his disappearance

Baskin is the rival of Tiger King star Joe Exotic who shot to global fame this year on Netflix. A federal judge in June granted control of the Oklahoma zoo that was previously run by Maldonado-Passage – also known as Joe Exotic – to Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue Corp

During the commercial, family lawyer John Phillips said: ‘Don Lewis mysteriously disappeared in 1997. His family deserves answers, they deserve justice.

‘Do you know who did this or if Carole Baskin was involved?’

Baskin, 59, has not been charged with any crime and has repeatedly denied the accusations made in the hit documentary. 

The family’s advert appeared during a commercial break as Baskin, 59, donned a tiger-print dress to cut across the floor with pro dancer Pasha Pashkov for season 29 premiere of ABC’s celebrity ballroom competition.

Baskin freed Pasha from a cage filled with stuffed tiger animals as they performed to the Eye of the Tiger, the theme of the 1982 sports movie Rocky III. 

They received a score of 11 points from the judges and ended up at the bottom of the leaderboard at the end of the premiere. 

‘Hey, all you cool cats and kittens,’ Baskin said using her catchphrase during her introduction video from Tampa, Florida. ‘My life got turned upside-down by the documentary Tiger King. If somebody told me last year that I would be on season 29 of Dancing With The Stars, I  I would have laughed out loud.’

She was then shown meeting Pasha for the first time and greeting him with a handmade wreath that she placed on his head.

‘The whole outfit is screaming cats,’ Pashkov said after meeting Baskin who was wearing a leopard print top and trousers. 

Baskin dancing with Pasha Pashkov on Dancing with the Stars last night

Baskin dancing with Pasha Pashkov on Dancing with the Stars last night as Bruno Tonioli and Tyra Banks look on

Season premiere: Baskin performed to the Eye Of The Tiger on Monday with pro partner Pasha Pashkov during the season 29 premiere of Dancing With The Stars on ABC

Last month, Lewis’s family held a press conference in Tampa and announced an independent investigation into his disappearance.

Lewis’s van was found near the airport after he went missing and he was declared legally dead in 2002. 

Baskin was offered a lie detector test in 2011 but she decline to take it. 

She is now married to Howard Baskin.

Lewis’ body was never found and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister recently reopened the case. 

‘We’re going to serve (Baskin) with a lawsuit, but not a lawsuit for damages, it’s a lawsuit for equity,’ Phillips said during the briefing at Riverhills Church of God on August 10.

The bill of discovery would allow them to get information before deciding who to sue. It means depositions or subpoenas could be on the cards. 

‘Generally you announce a $150 million lawsuit and how we’re going to get justice. And we are going to do all of that in time,’ Phillips continued. ‘But our office wants to invite reason, to invite civil conversation where it can be had.’ 

The Lewis family took part in a press conference in August at Riverhills Church of God in Tampa, Florida

The family of Lewis is offering $100,000 in exchange for information to help solve the case

The family is also targeting Kenny Farr, Don’s handyman who appeared in Tiger King, and a woman who witnessed the signing of Lewis’ will. 

That woman, Susan A. Bradshaw, told the Tampa Bay Times in 2005 that Baskin told her to say she was there for the will signing however she claims she was not.

‘Resolving this case is in everyone’s best interest. I believe it’s in Carole Baskin’s best interest. I invite her to the table,’ Phillips said. ‘I invite her to talk, and let us know what really happened.

‘I will ask one time, for civility. I will ask one time that we come together to find closure of this whole thing. If that can’t be done, I’m a lawyer. I sue people. We’ll go that route too. Make no mistake, if the family’s offer for civility is rejected, if the insults continue, the next step is to bring justice, because justice is love.’

As well as its Dancing with the Stars advert, the family have already paid for Tampa-area billboards asking for information in the case.

It comes after the hit Tiger King documentary about Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as ‘Joe Exotic,’ an eccentric former Oklahoma zookeeper.

Earlier this year, Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot.

Carole is now married to Howard Baskin (pictured left) and she has not been charged in Lewis’ disappearance

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.

In retaliation, Maldonado-Passage raised questions about Baskin’s former husband. The documentary extensively covered Maldonado-Passage’s repeated accusations that Baskin killed her husband and possibly fed him to her tigers.  

Maldonaldo-Passage is currently in prison. A federal judge in June granted control of the Oklahoma zoo that was previously run by Maldonado-Passage – also known as Joe Exotic – to Big Cat Rescue Corp.

Baskin previously sued Maldonado-Passage for trademark and copyright infringements and won a $1 million civil judgment against him. The judge found that ownership of the zoo was fraudulently transferred to Maldonado-Passage’s mother in an attempt to avoid paying the judgment.

In March, the Hillsborough County sheriff asked for tips in the case of Lewis and announced a reopening of Lewis’ case. 

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