Sheriff Says the Will of 'Tiger King' Star Carole Baskin's Missing Husband Was Forged


The plot thickens in the disappearance of “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin’s husband, Don Lewis.

Last month, handwriting experts said they believed the signature on Baskin’s missing husband’s will and power of attorney were forged and now a Florida sheriff is confirming their accounts.

"They had two experts deem it 100 percent a forgery. But, we knew that...we knew that before," Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister told 10 Tampa Bay.

Despite knowing the will was forged, Chronister said no legal action could be taken because the statute of limitations had expired.

"The will had already been executed at that point," Chronister told the outlet. "But, it certainly cast another shadow of suspicion, by all means."

While Baskin has not been named a suspect in Lewis’ disappearance, Chronister said investigators have uncovered new information they weren’t aware of previously.

"Investigators have some great leads," Chronister added. "They're working through them. I hope something pans out."

In May, handwriting expert Thomas Vastrick told the Clarion Ledger he believed the signatures on the will were forged off Lewis' marriage record.

He also speculated the signatures of the witnesses and the notary on both documents may have also been forged since they appear to be identical.

A second handwriting expert, Willa Smith, also believed the signatures are “the product of tracing.”

Lewis and Baskin married in 1991 and co-owned Big Cat Rescue, a Tampa, Florida wildlife sanctuary together. He disappeared without a trace in August 1997.  And while Lewis’ body was never found, he was declared legally dead in 2002. Baskin later inherited his fortune.

Baskin was never charged with a crime, but speculation that Lewis was murdered ramped up after the premiere of “Tiger King.”

In the Netflix documentary, Baskin had a feud with the eccentric, combative former Oklahoma zookeeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage aka “Joe Exotic.”

Exotic has accused Baskin of murdering her husband and feeding his remains to her tigers.

Meanwhile, Exotic was arrested for a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin and is currently serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison.

Some believe the allegedly forged signatures could be “powerful evidence” if Baskin were to be charged with a crime.

“It ties a bow on what could be her scheme to get him [Lewis] out of the picture,” Matt Steffey, a professor at the Mississippi College of Law, told the Clarion Ledger. “She has motive anyway, but this ups the stakes.”

While Baskin has not commented on the alleged forgeries, she and her Big Cat Rescue Corp. were recently granted control of Joe Exotic's former zoo, now known as Tiger King Park.

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