Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is still looking for tips for Carole Baskin’s missing husband Jack “Don” Lewis.
Sheriff Chronister held a press conference today, sharing some new details about the investigation.
Lewis’ disappearance was featured extensively in an episode of Tiger King, which suggested Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin was a prime suspect.
By now, almost everyone has experienced the number one quarantine distraction that is the Netflix documentary series ‘Tiger King’. We covered the arrest of “Joe Exotic’ (Joseph Passage-Maldanado) on Crimcourts back when he was arrested, but the documentary takes a 7-episode deep-dive into he and several other big cat zoos. One of the outstanding mysteries from the show is the disappearance of the first husband of one of those zoo owners, Carole Baskin, the founder and owner of Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue.
The disappearance of her husband, millionaire Jack ‘Don’ Lewis in 1997 has never been solved, and now the Hillsborough County Sheriff is using the renewed interest from ‘Tiger King’ to solicit the public for more information from this still-unsolved case. Sheriff Chronister held a press conference today, and revealed some details of interest to watchers of the Tiger King series. The Sheriff indicated that Ms. Baskin is not being as cooperative as she may have been in the past. HCSO asked her to take a polygraph test, and she declined, citing the advice of her attorney. The sheriff also mentioned the meat grinder that had been on the property, and which was referenced in Tiger King. The sheriff says the meat grinder was removed from the property mere days before it was searched, so it was never able to be tested. It’s also worth noting that the septic tank, which was one of Joe exotic’s favorite theories, was installed well after Mr. Lewis’ disappearance, and is not considered relevant to the case. Baskin disputes allegations she was involved in her husband’s disappearance.
For those who haven’t seen the series, Carole Baskin met Don Lewis walking down the street in Tampa one night, and later married him. Lewis was a millionaire who left his previous wife to be with the much younger Baskin. Lewis apparently had one or more mistresses while married to Baskin, and made frequent trips to Costa Rica. Shortly before his disappearance, he had indicated an intention to a friend that he planned to leave Ms. Baskin. However, he was last seen on 8/18/1997, with no explanation, and his vehicle found abandoned at a small airfield. Not long after, Ms. Baskin revealed a trust that provided for her to control his multi-million dollar fortune in case of his death or, suspiciously spelled out, his disappearance. He was declared dead as soon as the 5-year period ran, and Ms. Baskin inherited the vast majority of his fortune.
There are more details in the series, which I finally watched and insist you do the same. But the new revelations, such as the missing meat grinder, will only add to the suspicion engendered by the documentary. Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22-years in federal prison for soliciting Baskin’s murder, along with charges for selling and killing tigers. I leave you with the country ballad video produced by Joe Exotic, which uses a Carole Baskin look-alike to suggest she killed Don Lewis and fed him to her cats.
The state has charged Howell “Trai” Donaldson III with four counts of murder for a string of killings in the Seminole Heights area of Tampa in the last few weeks. The State then subpoenaed his parents, Howell Donaldson, Jr. and Rosita Donaldson, to ask them about his history, including criminal, mental health and so forth. His parents, who were concerned that the State may try to use any evidence they provided to put their son to death, refused to answer the State’s questions or to cooperate. While the concerns may be sympathetic, there is no parental privilege applicable in this circumstance.
The State moved to hold them in contempt, and a hearing was held today in court. The Judge ruled that they would have to comply with the subpoena and to testify. He has given them until January 5, 2018 to answer the prosecutors questions or risk being found in contempt of court, which could include jail time.
This is fascinating, from a legal perspective, and the first time I’ve seen something like it. They were lawfully served with a subpoena (probably an Instanter), and the judge probably correctly orders them to comply under the law. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The serial murders he is charged with are shocking, as four seemingly unconnected, innocent people were killed. The young man accused was a college graduate who was apparently polite, even with the cops that arrested him. This case will be in the headlines for some time.
Drunk Driving Numbers Are Falling in many Jurisdictions
Ride Sharing Programs Claims Some Credit
Critics Blame Lack of Enforcement
Ride sharing apps were in the news this week when Uber and Lyft decided to pull out of serving Austin, TX due to strict local ordinances. This may make the streets less safe, because a great deal of the business for these apps are taking people home late at night and on weekends: providing a convenient alternative to driving for many people who have been out on the town and possibly drinking.
Hopefully the decline in arrests is indicative of less people drinking and driving, and keeping the roads safer for all of us. If Uber and Lyft help, we can all get behind that. The numbers so far certainly favor the increase accessibility of ride-sharing apps.
A few weeks ago, I posted about what I believe to be the dirtiest trick utilized by law enforcement in their poorly-run internet sting operations: using pictures of OLDER decoys to supposedly catch pedophiles. I have personally seen cases where decoys of legal age were used to entice would-be consenting adults. I got an email yesterday that in another sting operation, in Orange County, agents were using images of decoys as old as 25 to entice their targets. I wish I could say that I was surprised. The sad truth is they claim to be chasing pedophiles, but they are using adults to lure people. There’s nothing wrong with meeting a 25-year-old on the internet, it’s the lie they slip in claiming the decoy is much younger that they use to arrest the sucker. While we don’t want adults traveling to meet underage children, our law enforcement resources are being misspent if we are pursuing people who are not actually looking to meet underage partners. The reality is even more harsh, as Florida’s draconian sentencing laws often don’t fit the crime. (See Marissa Alexander re: 10/20/Life)
Commentors have pointed me to the governingus.com blog that specifically follows these cases. It’s worth checking and they recently linked to a story out of Tampa by a reporter who really does some journalism and challenges the authorities. Noah Pransky used to work in the Fort Myers market, before moving on to a bigger market. We’ve linked to his stories on before on crimcourts, when he did a great expose on misuse of red light ticketing. Imagine that, the Fourth Estate keeping an eye on government intrusion.
Pransky, who is not on the defense side, unlike the author of this blog, says it perfectly, “Law enforcement may have crossed the line in going after some men who weren’t breaking the law at all.” He continues, “While many of those arrested will ultimately get well-deserved time behind bars, even if a few men were wrongly targeted by officers who were abusing their power, that’s too many victims. Those men will never be able to fully clear their names, even if their found not guilty, which is why we’re fighting for transparency, and your right to know that police aren’t engaging in entrapment.”
That reporting is especially important as the government goes further and further to invade our lives, and to keep secrets from our citizens: http://www.wired.com/2014/06/feds-seize-stingray-documents/
People often claim that traffic citations are more about fund-raising for cities and counties than they are about the safety of drivers. While the communities continually deny this, they rake in money from the citations, especially red light cameras. Well, it’s hard to claim that the communities are concerned about safety when it turns out that some communities are deliberately SHORTENING yellow lights, which directly leads to more red light tickets. Studies have shown that shorter yellow lights lead to more accidents, but politicians are still using the camera company’s talking points to claim justification for shortening the yellows. Some of those same politicians are receiving campaign donations from the camera companies!
More insidious is that camera supporters put through a change in the law to allow the yellow lights to be shortened. Still, communities in the WTSP story are still shortening the yellow lights below the new minimum standards. Watch reporter Pransky confront the spokesman with evidence of the intentional shortening. This is sickening.
The red light cameras are clearly a racket for communities to tax drivers for the most minor of infractions. Amidst some tumult about the cameras, Collier took theirs down a few months ago. One of the commissioners there admitted it was a revenue generating program, and they weren’t making as much money when the law changed to prevent the camera company from making a commission based on the number of tickets issued. This is shameful by these other Florida communities who are putting drivers at greater risk, just to ticket them for more revenue. It’s government working against the people who it should be working for, and I applaud the investigative efforts of Noah Pransky and the WTSP, Channel 10 news team in Tampa for bringing this racket to light. Great job, I can safely say we Mr. Pransky’s reporting in Southwest Florida.
This time in Tampa, the Cortnee Brantley trial ended in a mistrial. She is charged with misprison of a felony, failing to inform police of a felony that she was allegedly aware of. The Defense has argued since she was underinvestigation, she wasn’t required to answer questions. Sounds like a basic 5th Amendment situation on its face, but it differs in that they weren’t asking her to incriminate herself, rather her boyfriend who was trying to elude arrest. The article indicates she could be facing state charges as well, I have never seen that charged in Florida- interesting case.