Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister believes that more than one person may have been involved in the disappearance and possible murder of Carole Baskin's second husband Don Lewis. Interest in Lewis' case surged following the debut of Netflix's docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, which briefly touched on Lewis' 1997 disappearance. While the series largely toyed with the theory that Baskin is guilty, Chronister, speaking with TMZ, suggested that at least two people are responsible, and he hopes that someone will come forward and provide information that will crack the case.
"I'm extremely suspicious, but not just of her – of this whole circle here," he said, referencing the numerous subjects of the docuseries. "Extremely suspicious. Like I said, I don't want to allude to the fact, or insinuate, that she's our person of interest and this is who we're focusing on. I'm not comfortable saying that yet."
"There's normally not one person that commits a homicide. It's always a couple people. And this had to be extremely planned out, this had to be well thought out," he continued. "There's someone else involved in this. There's someone who was paid to do it. There's someone who helped do it. I'm hoping that person wants to come and get this off their chest and help law enforcement do the right thing. And you start talking about different things with immunity, you know, deals are cut. And listen, every deal's on the table right now. Help us solve this case."
Lewis was last seen alive on August 18, 1997. His van was found abandoned at a nearby airport days later with his keys and briefcase inside. There were no signs of a struggle. Lewis was declared dead five years later. While Baskin was the last person to see him alive, she has long maintained her innocence. Following the debut of Tiger King, she even slammed the series and producers Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode for putting so much focus on Lewis' disappearance, though doing so seems to have provided a spike in interest in the case. Shortly after the series’ debut, Chronister took to Twitter to issue a plea for new information.
"Once I saw how popular this Netflix documentary series has become, I'm like, 'Listen, we need to take advantage of this,'" he later told PEOPLE. "I just thought, 'Wouldn't it be phenomenal if we could glimmer some type of evidence, an interview, anything that would help us solve this disappearance case?'"0comments
"We're getting about six tips a day," he added. "So far, nothing viable. More theory-driven. But I'm going to be honest with you: I remain optimistic. Somebody's going to watch this show and it's going to prompt them to call us."
Chronister added that he "believes it was a homicide." He explained that he did not believe Lewis would abandon his family. He also said that Baskin is "not a suspect at this time" and that the department does not "have any evidence to even call her a person of interest."