Don Lewis, the missing husband of Tiger King star Carole Baskin, left behind power of attorney documents and a will that a new report suggests could contain forgeries of his signature. The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi reports that the signatures on the legal documents appear to have been traced from the couple’s marriage certificate, two handwritings experts say.
Lewis disappeared in 1997, a topic that became part of the focus of the Netflix documentary Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. The show spends an entire episode discussing the multimillionaire’s disappearance and suggests that Baskin may have been involved in some way, though critics say that the episode is unfairly edited to make her appear more guilty.
Baskin’s rival on the show, Joe Exotic, also known as Joseph Maldonado-Passage, has pushed the theory that Baskin killed her husband and either fed him to their rescued big cats or buried him in a septic tank on the property.
Lewis’s children and former wife are also suspicious of Baskin, who inherited his estate, and critics argue that she was the last to see him alive before he disappeared, making her a possible suspect.
Lewis’s former attorney has suggested that the millionaire was strangled and thrown out of a plane.
Law enforcement has said that Baskin isn’t a person of interest in Lewis’ disappearance and though the case remains open, no one has been apprehended in the alleged crime. He was declared dead in 2002.
View this post on Instagram
'Tiger King' Sheriff Chad Chronister is convinced one person could NOT have committed Carole's husband's murder… he says someone must have helped and someone got paid. Details at the LINK IN BIO. ???? Don't forget to WATCH @FOXTV tonight at 9 PM for our special, "TMZ Investigates, Tiger King: What Really Went Down?"
But experts say that the allegedly forged documents could shed entirely new light on the case.
Thomas Vastrick, a handwriting expert based in Florida, says that the signatures appeared to be forged.
“It’s not a difficult call,” he said.
This is backed up by Willa Smith, another handwriting expert who echoes Vastrick’s determination.
They say that the signatures appear to be identical, which means that one or both could have been forged by tracing.
One attorney, who is not involved in the case, says that the new information is the type that could provide evidence to prosecutors should Baskin become a suspect Lewis’ disappearance.
He called it “powerful evidence of motive, and it’s powerful evidence of misdeeds,” he said. “She has motive anyway, but this ups the stakes.”
The allegation of a forgery was referred to the Florida attorney general’s office, but they determined that the statute of limitations had passed.
Adding further complication to the issue is Susan Aronoff, a woman whose signature appears on the documents as a witness, but she claims she didn’t sign the will or power of attorney letter.
“The problem with the will is that Carole had me backed against a wall at the time and from fear of her then I signed a statement, swearing it to be my signature, even though it wasn’t. I could go to jail for that I’m told.”