Even 23 years after Don Lewis went missing, new evidence is emerging that has retired homicide investigator Jim Rathmann convinced he was a victim of foul play. Rathmann will lead the charge in Investigation Discovery's three-part special, Joe Exotic: Tigers, Lies and Cover-Up, premiering Sunday, Sept. 27, which also features brand new interviews with incarcerated Tiger King star Joe Exotic's inner circle, including husband Dillon Passage and the group working to free him from jail.
Rathmann admitted in an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com ahead of the premiere how he wasn't captivated at first watching the Netlfix docuseries chronicling Exotic's escalating feud with fellow big cat enthusiast Carole Baskin, but had his interested piqued in Episode 3, when the disappearance of Baskin's former husband was brought up. While Exotic's theory was she had killed him and fed him to her tigers, Baskin has denied having a part in her husband's death repeatedly. Six months later, the former homicide investigator is convinced his team is heading down the road to determine once and for all what happened to Lewis.
The turning point for Rathmann was an interview with Trish Farr-Payne, the ex-wife of Baskin and Lewis' handyman Kenny Farr, which he said brought to light the details of property transfers between Baskin and Farr surrounding Lewis' disappearance. "We're 23 years late to the game, so the evidence you could have collected back then, if it wasn't collected properly, then it's gone," he explained of digging into these old leads, which will play out during the three-part special.
After examining the evidence, Rathmann said he believes Lewis did "succumb to some kind of foul play," insisting Lewis wouldn't merely "vanish," leaving his family, daughters, and big cats with no financial plan set up. "There's a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the disappearance of Don Lewis," he explained. "There's also a lot of great information coming forward."
Watching ID's new special, Rathmann hopes people follow the "actual factual information" presented to them and come to their own conclusions, aside from the speculation and theories presented in Tiger King. Bringing in handwriting experts, cadaver dogs and examining property transfers, Rathmann said the case could be solvable in the near future if one or two new pieces of information emerge.
As for Exotic's incarceration on a murder-for-hire scheme involving Baskin, Rathmann said he regularly communicates with the former zoo owner about Lewis' case. "He is quite the character, and much like you'd expect, he doesn't want to be in prison and wants to get out," he said with a laugh.0comments
Joe Exotic: Tigers, Lies and Cover-Up begins with parts one and two airing Sunday, September 27 at 9 p.m. ET and concludes with part three on Monday, September 28 at 9 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery. Immediately following the finale of Joe Exotic: Tigers, Lies and Cover-Up is ID's prequel special, Joe Exotic: Before He Was King, which examines the childhood traumas and dramatic events that shaped the mind of the Tiger King. Joe Exotic: Before He Was King premieres Monday, September 28 at 10 p.m. ET on ID.
"The bizarre and troubling saga of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin is, perhaps, one of the most convoluted mysteries ever revealed," said Henry Schleiff, Group President Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, American Heroes Channel and Destination America in a statement. "In these two specials, ID will take viewers through the complete story and determine who should really be in the cage."