Was Don Lewis pushed from a plane?

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The communicative of the conflict betwixt Tampa-based carnal rights activistic Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic, a flamboyant large feline proprietor successful Oklahoma, is inactive making headlines astir six months aft its merchandise connected Netflix. A reported 64 cardinal households watched the show.

The documentary has generated legions of armchair detectives fascinated by Joe Exotic's assertion that Carole had murdered her then-husband, Don Lewis, backmost successful 1997, and fed him to her tigers.

Was Don Lewis fed to the tigers? Hear from the erstwhile unpaid whose occupation it was to provender them 01:24

For her part, Carole Baskin, has vehemently denied each the allegations, and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister has intelligibly stated arsenic precocious arsenic this spring, that Baskin is neither a suspect, nor a idiosyncratic of involvement successful the 23-year-old acold case. Chronister has besides said, that due to the fact that of the involvement successful the "Tiger King," helium has re-energized the probe by assigning a homicide supervisor to reappraisal the case.

In 1997, erstwhile Don Lewis disappeared, the lawsuit made sensational headlines successful Tampa.  There were many theories astir wherever helium mightiness person gone, and what mightiness person happened to him.  In fact, Lewis had been readying to question to Costa Rica, wherever helium owned property, and often did business. But helium had been readying to instrumentality a commercialized formation from Miami, and seemingly ne'er made it.

Then, conscionable a time aft Lewis was reported missing, detectives discovered his van astatine a tiny airdrome astir a fractional an hr extracurricular Tampa. The keys to his van were reportedly recovered inside, but nary motion of Don. It wasn't agelong earlier respective theories and rumors emerged.

tk-lewis-van.jpg In the summertime of 1997, Carole Lewis reported Don missing. The lone hint of him was his van, which was recovered astatine a distant airdrome astir fractional an hr from wherever the mates lived. Don's keys were reportedly inactive successful the vehicle. WTSP

It was wide known that Don Lewis was an amateur aviator and had owned a fig of tiny aircraft.

Don Lewis' lawyer, Joe Fritz, told "48 Hours Suspicion" that astatine the clip of Lewis' disappearance, determination was a wide rumor — that idiosyncratic had murdered Lewis successful the air.

"I've heard, astatine the time, contemporaneously with everything — and I cognize that our sheriff's section has heard this communicative — that helium was strangled from the backseat of an airplane with an electrical cord and pushed retired 50 feet implicit the Gulf."

The disappearance of Carole Baskin's then-husband Don Lewis The disappearance of Carole Baskin's then-husband Don Lewis 22 photos

"48 Hours Suspicion" investigated this anticipation and respective different of these aircraft-related theories.  It truthful happens that analogous Richard Schlesinger is besides a pilot, and helium brought his ain specialized expertise to the investigation. Schlesinger's report, "The Tiger King Mystery," aired connected a peculiar "48 Hours" series, "Suspicion." The bid airs Wednesdays astatine 10/9c connected CBS.

One of the planes Don Lewis was known to alert was a azygous engine, debased helping Piper Arrow. Schlesinger besides often flies the aforesaid benignant of plane.  For "48 Hours Suspicion," helium took to the aerial successful a akin Piper Arrow and reported from the pilot's spot arsenic helium flew the aircraft.

tk-schlesinger-plane.jpg "48 Hours" analogous Richard Schlesinger took to the skies successful a Piper Arrow to analyse the mentation that Don Lewis whitethorn person been strangled and thrown from an airplane.  CBS News

"First of all," reported Schlesinger, "imagine the conflict progressive successful strangling a 170-pound antheral successful this rider seat. Then, if the program was to propulsion him retired the door… that's a challenge… the slowest this airplane tin alert is astir 65 mph-- and that means winds approaching hurricane spot would beryllium pushing against this doorway trying to support it closed.

Schlesinger continued, pointing retired the situation of moving a assemblage to the doorway successful the cramped cockpit , "Then you'd person to unfastened it... you'd person to support it opened… and you'd person to someway wrestle the assemblage retired of present without interfering with the formation controls. Bottom line… I conjecture you could bash it… but determination are easier ways to get escaped of a body."

If it was improbable that Lewis had been pushed from a flying plane, determination was besides different mentation successful the aerial backmost successful 1997. That was the anticipation that Lewis simply drove to the airport, got successful a plane, and flew himself disconnected to Costa Rica.

In fact, that's what Lewis' lawyer, Joseph Fritz, told 48 Hours: Suspicion helium archetypal figured erstwhile helium heard Don had disappeared.

"Off of Costa Rica is what I thought. I cognize helium spent a lotta clip and wealth successful Costa Rica. … But that's what I initially thought."

As portion of the 48 Hours: Suspicion investigation, Schlesinger spoke with different experienced pilot, Joe Solan, astir the scope and capabilities of the Piper Arrow:

Joe Solan: You tin astir get astir 700 miles to a afloat tank, the 2 main tanks full. 

Richard Schlesinger: So, accidental you were gonna spell from the Tampa country down to Costa Rica. It's not a nonstop flight. … So that's similar however galore refueling stops? 

Joe Solan: Oh astir apt 3 to 4 astatine least.

Solan explained that successful bid for Lewis to person flown each the mode to Costa Rica helium would person had to person made aggregate substance stops on the way. It would person been a lengthy and improbable journey.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has ne'er released details of its probe of the craft enigma backmost successful 1997. But if Lewis did marque the journey, his household says determination were ne'er immoderate reports that helium stopped to refuel. The Lewis household besides says determination were nary reports of immoderate of Don's planes missing.

So the enigma remains—what happened to Don Lewis? And present with a legion of armchair detectives propelled by the mysteries of the "Tiger King," each hint is being re-examined, including however and wherefore was Don Lewis' van discovered, abandoned astatine that tiny airdrome successful Florida. 

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