Netflix’s latest true-crime documentary, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, delves into Joe Exotic’s insane life, from building his controversial private zoo to landing in jail for plotting a murder. He clashed with Carole Baskin, an animal rights advocate and Joe’s perceived greatest enemy, until he plotted to have her killed. Joe’s plan failed and he ended up in jail, with Baskin coming out as the victor in their years-long feud. But, throughout their fight, Joe has contended that Baskin is no different from him. Who is Joe Exotic’s biggest enemy? Our Carole Baskin wiki explains it all.
|About Carole Baskin|
|Known As||Carole Ann Stairs, Carole Murdock, Carole Lewis|
|Birth||June 6, 1961|
|Spouse||Howard Baskin 2004 - Present,|
Don Lewis 1991 (Disappeared),
|Children||Jamie Veronica Murdock|
|Job||CEO and Founder|
|Works For||Big Cat Rescue|
|Hometown||San Antonio, Texas|
Carole Baskin Had an Affair with Don Lewis
Born Carole Ann Stairs on June 6, 1961, she grew up in Florida. She loved animals from a very young age, taking care of stray cats as she dreamed of becoming a veterinarian.
She would run away from home in 1977, when she was 15. She began living out of her car and found a job at a discount department store in Tampa.
There, she grew close to her boss, a man identified as Mike Murdock. At 17, she married him and had a daughter named Jamie Veronica Murdock with him.
Mike was reportedly possessive and abusive to her. He took measures to ensure she wasn’t running around on him. That prevented Carole from finding a job.
So she began breeding Persian and Himalayan show cats at home for extra income. To stay occupied, she began rehabbing injured bobcats to release them back.
One night when she sensed Mike was close to one of his physical tirades, 19-year-old Carole escaped. While running on the street, an intriguing man pulled up to her in his car and offered to help. They spent the night platonically at a motel, and Carole found herself in love with him.
He told her that his name was Bob Martin and he was married, too. They would have clandestine meetings, with Carole thinking they were hiding from Martin’s boss, a rich businessman named Don Lewis.
But a chance phonecall to Martin’s office revealed his secret to Carole—that he was actually Don Lewis. Carole and Don eventually left their spouses and got married in 1991.
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Lewis Helped Baskin Found Big Cat Rescue
Millionaire Lewis enabled Carole’s love for cats by saving a bobcat at an auction from another bidder who’d planned to stuff it. The bobcat, Windsong, was a terror around the house, especially with Carole’s daughter. So the couple decided to get Windsong a playmate.
They contacted a bobcat breeder in Minnesota for a second cat. But when Carole and Don arrived at the breeder’s facility, they were in for a rude shock.
Howie's birthday is the 13th. What do you get the purr-fect mate as a gift?
Posted by Carole Baskin on Saturday, May 4, 2019
The breeder kept 56 bobcat kittens in rows of cages under terrible conditions. Carole was distressed to learn that these cats would be killed for their fur.
So Lewis quelled his wife’s fears by buying every bobcat there. That was the start of Carole and Don’s movement of buying every exotic cat that would have been slaughtered for its fur.
They had rescued about 100 cats together, rehabbing them in a sanctuary on a 40-acre piece of land. The sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue, was similar to Joe’s private zoo in that owners of exotic pets would drop off their cats once there they grew disenchanted with them.
Carole acquired a reputation among animal rights advocates. She would often get calls from people asking if an exotic pet sanctuary was legitimate or not. So for those who wanted to donate their pets to a legal and ethnical sanctuary, she started a website with detailed reports on private zoos and sanctuaries.
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Lewis Disappeared in 1997
Carole and Don expanded the facility to include a bed-and-breakfast for guests and visitors to interact with the cats. But soon, they began arguing over how Big Cat Rescue should be run. Don was keen on breeding the cats for profitability, something Carole was strongly against and what she would fight even Joe Exotic on.
Besides, Lewis had a reputation for being stingy and promiscuous, two traits Carole was well aware of. When their fights escalated, Lewis sought a restraining order against her claiming she had threatened to shoot him.
The petition was rejected and two weeks later, Lewis disappeared in 1997. Carole claimed that he said he was going to Miami and was never heard from again.
His vehicle was found at the airport, but witnesses don’t recall seeing him. There weren’t any records of him boarding a flight, either.
Don’s children from his previous marriage publicly accused her of killing Lewis and feeding him to her cats. Even though she was not seen as a suspect, Carole would end up locked in a legal battle with Don’s children over his estate.
The property of Big Cat Rescue was a non-contentious issue, however. The sanctuary and the cats solely belonged to Carole.
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Carole Is Now Married to Howard Baskin
Around the time Joe Exotic was gaining a reputation with his traveling animal show, Carole met her future third husband in 2002. It was at a cocktail party at a local aquarium that Carole Lewis met Howard Baskin, who is 11 years her senior.
He graduated from Harvard with an MBA and worked as a management consultant. In terms of personality, he was a far cry from Carole’s previous husbands.
Two years after their first meeting, they married in a beach ceremony and honeymooned in the Virgin Islands.
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Howard would also play a big role in helping Carole run Big Cat Rescue. He turned her focus from simply rescuing cats to tackling the big cat-petting industry using his fundraising prowess and her social media skills.
Carole Won a Lawsuit against Joe Exotic
Joe and Carole’s feud began when the Big Cat Rescue founder began her war against the cub-petting industry. She and her followers would contact malls and venues that had such events to deter them from allowing cub-petting.
Then, in 2009, she found one persona frequently popped up in her research. The same man with a blonde mullet and spangly outfits was hosting cub-petting shows in malls under different stage names. She would then have her followers flood these malls’ servers with emails demanding them to stop these shows.
Joe had come to depend on these shows for revenue to run his private zoo in Oklahoma. A string of bad events would result in his paranoid aggression towards animal rights groups.
A relentless person like Carole became the bane of Joe’s life. Joe, who believed that Big Cat Rescue was no different than his zoo, had found an enemy in Carole.
To paint her as a hypocrite, he began using the Big Cat Rescue logo and name while advertising his shows. He printed it on cards and fliers and toured under Big Cat Rescue Entertainment.
When Carole began receiving concerning phone calls and emails about why was her sanctuary was endorsing a roadshow that allows cub-petting, she was shocked. She soon realized what Joe had been doing. That led to her suing Joe in federal court for trademark infringement in February 2011.
As their legal battle dragged on, Joe began producing his own show on YouTube with his home broadcast studio. Most of his videos were threatening tirades against Carole.
In 2013, Carole won the lawsuit and Joe was ordered to pay $1.0 million to her for trademark infringement.
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Joe Was Convicted for Plotting Carole’s Murder
Over the course of the next few years, Joe would try different things to thwart Carole’s attempts to collect the money. During that time, he even lost one of his husbands, Travis Maldonado, when he accidentally shot himself.
An unhinged Joe was frustrated with Carole Baskin and her attempts to shut down his zoo. He would ask his business associates, Jeff Lowe and James Garretson, to introduce him to hitmen who could kill Carole for $10,000.
A former employee would alert Carole to Joe’s murderous intent, prompting Baskin to approach federal agents. Garretson, disillusioned by Joe’s cruel treatment of the animals, joined the agents as a confidential informant.
He recorded conversations with Joe that would prove him guilty of murder for hire. At one point, Garretson found out that Joe paid a zoo employee to go to Florida and kill Carole. The employee ran away with the money, but Carole and federal agents were on alert.
Garretson would then introduce Joe to a federal agent disguised as a hitman. But once bitter Joe wasn’t coughing up the money yet.
Aggrieved by Maldonado’s death, disillusioned by the mounting problems with the zoo, and exhausted with his feuds with Jeff Lowe and Carole Baskin, Joe and his husband Dillon Passage left the zoo and moved to Florida. There, he was arrested for plotting Carole Baskin’s murder in September 2018.
At his trial, he pinned the blame on Lowe and disparaged Carole. But the jury wouldn’t buy his act. He was convicted on two counts of murder for hire, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act in January 2020.
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Where Is Carole Baskin Now?
Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison and is in custody while awaiting his designation to a facility under the Bureau of Prisons. His husband, Dillon Passage, is in Texas.
Meanwhile, Carole, who had been afraid for her life during his trial, finally breathed a sigh of relief after he was sentenced. She continues to run Big Cat Rescue with her husband.
In 2019, she launched an augmented reality zoo at the Westfield Citrus Park Shopping Center. The virtual zoo allows visitors to experience wildlife through electronic headsets without keeping exotic animals in captivity.
Her daughter, Jamie, graduated high school at 16 to help her run Big Cat Rescue. She is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and currently serves as the president of Big Cat Rescue.