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After 'Tiger King': Florida sheriff getting daily tips about Don Lewis cold case

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said it's getting tips every day since the series dropped.
Credit: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

TAMPA, Fla. — With all the hype surrounding the new Netflix series "Tiger King" and its ties to Florida, authorities provided updates in the cold case disappearance of Don Lewis.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday that it's getting a lot of tips every day since the series dropped. However, Sheriff Chad Chronister said there's "nothing credible yet."

Chronister said the office is getting on average six tips a day about Lewis, mostly theories. 

"There's just no real charges or evidence leading to probable cause," Chronister said. "That still holds true, (but) we are hoping that changes the more people watch this show."

Jack Donald Lewis was last seen on Aug. 18, 1997. He was the first husband of Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin. Both people are two of many subjects in "Tiger King."

The series mostly focuses on Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, who ran a zoo full of big cats in Oklahoma. The series focuses on his rivalry with Baskin, who sought to get rid of any zoo or attraction that offered tiger cub petting and breeding.

RELATED: 'Tiger King' series prompts Florida sheriff to ask for new leads in disappearance of Don Lewis

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RELATED: 'Unsavory lies' | Big Cat Rescue owner responds to Netflix 'Tiger King' series

Credit: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
Credit: FILE

Big Cat Rescue in Tampa is one of the largest big cat sanctuaries and houses dozens of rescued tigers, lions, leopards, bobcats and more.

Episode 3 of the show focuses more on Baskin's life and the disappearance of Lewis. Through most of the series, Maldonado-Passage alleges that Baskin killed Lewis and fed him to her tigers.

Other claims about Lewis' disappearance relate to two meat grinders and a septic tank on the Big Cat Rescue property. Chronister addressed both of those Tuesday, saying the meat grinders had been removed several weeks before Lewis' disappearance. And, he said the septic tank was installed years after he Lewis disappeared.

Baskin has vehemently denied allegations that she had anything to do with Lewis' disappearance. Chronister said she previously declined to do a polygraphic test at the suggestion of her lawyer, who said it wouldn't vindicate her even if she passed it.

"I can’t even begin to describe how complicated this case is," Chronister said. "Everyone had their own theory."

Maldonado-Passage was convicted in a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin and was sentenced in January to 22 years in prison.

Right before the series dropped, Maldonado-Passage filed a $94 million civil rights lawsuit against multiple government agencies and his former business partners. He claims he was set up in the murder-for-hire plot.

Chronister said he and his family did watch the "Tiger King" series and thought it was "interesting."

"We have to remember it was done for entertainment purposes," he said.

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