‘Tiger King’s Don Lewis disappearance: Does home in Costa Rica hold the key?
Tiger King star Carole Baskin’s husband Don Lewis officially disappeared in 1997 never to be seen by the public again. But a property he owned in Costa Rica wasn’t sold until years later – leaving it suspiciously empty while things blew over.
A recently unearthed report from the US Customs Office claimed agents had tracked Don to Costa Rica – where he owned a 200-acres of farm land and various properties – and found him alive and well, despite him disappearing from Florida leaving behind his van next to an airfield and no further trace.
The Post visited Lewis’ last known address in Costa Rica, a two-story triplex in the country’s capital, San Jose. Although he officially went missing in 1997, a listing to sell the property didn’t appear until 2000, three years later.
The home is in the Rohrmoser district, one of the city’s richest neighborhoods now filled with gated entrances, cameras and security guards on nearly every street.
A longtime resident of the neighborhood was able to confirm they saw Lewis living in the home around the time of his disappearance. When pressed further, they declined to comment.
Lewis had signed the property over to Carole before he disappeared, but she is not thought to have ever visited Costa Rica.
Dale Lively — a longtime friend and mechanic for Lewis — told The Post the two were chatting in his auto shop just days before his disappearance and made plans to go to Central America together.
“He told me that he was going to go to Costa Rica that weekend, and he invited me to go with him,” Lively shared, adding, “I remember I never gave him a firm answer, but he said that he was going to move his cats and everything to Costa Rica.”
According to legal documents obtained by The Post, Lewis was the sole owner of the San Jose house in 1997, but had created a Last Will and Testament in Costa Rica just three months prior to his disappearance, signing over his properties and assets to Baskin.
Interestingly enough, Lewis’ US Will was declared a forgery in 2020 by Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
“They had two experts deem it 100 percent a forgery. But, we knew that…we knew that before,” Chronister told 10 Tampa Bay, adding that due to statute of limitations the case of forgery could not be pursued criminally.
The US Will signed over nearly $10 million in assets to Baskin, leaving his family — daughters Donna Pettis, Lynda Sanchez, and Gale Rathbone — out completely.
In 2000, Lewis’ San Jose house was found to be listed on a real estate website owned by Alan Schreier, a romantic partner of Baskin’s following Lewis’ disappearance.
Schreier, however, told The Post he has no knowledge of ever listing the property on his website.
The mysterious real estate listing notes Lewis’ home had been appraised the year before his disappearance, but was being sold at a less than half of the original value “due to a family tragedy.”
Don’s family with his first wife – before he met Carole – say he is dead, despite the speculation. He was legally declared dead in 2002, at which point Baskin was allowed access to his estate.
However, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Florida claim he is still listed as a missing person and their case for him is “still active.” However, attempts by the department to find him in Costa Rica have failed.
The current tenants of Lewis’ last home only know him through the Netflix show which brought his missing persons case into a national spotlight.
Various lawyers who had done business with Lewis refused to comment to The Post over whether he is, in fact, alive somewhere in the country.
Lewis — who is said to have had many affairs with women while in Costa Rica — is also rumored to have had shady business interests in the Central American country.
Baskin had previously stated Lewis had informed her of his plans to relocate prior to his disappearance.
Triggering speculation around his being alive and well, she said in 2021: “They said my husband, Don Lewis, is alive and well in Costa Rica. And yet all of this drama has been made about me having something to do with his disappearance.”
Lewis and Baskin’s relationship has been up for speculation since the release of the Netflix series, with a slew of viewers — including “Tiger King” co-star Joe Exotic — fueling speculation Baskin was in some way connected to her husband’s disappearance or had him murdered. She has repeatedly denied these claims and they have been deemed unfounded by the Sheriff.