The first night of “Dancing with the Stars” Season 29 was full of tiger stripes and claws. Carole Baskin received the lowest score of the night.
The family of Don Lewis – Carole Baskin’s former husband, who went missing in 1997 – cut in to the “Tiger King” star’s “Dancing with the Stars” debut Monday. The commercial, requesting information about his disappearance, aired in Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida, says Lewis family attorney John M. Phillips, who appears in the ad and mentions Baskin. Suspicions of her involvement were explored in Netflix’s hit docuseries.
So what fresh leads have come from the ad? (A longer version has been viewed nearly 900,000 times on YouTube.)
Phillips says the homemade commercial, filmed with his Canon camera, has resulted in dozens of tips – and he believes some of them may be credible.
He says “well over 100” calls have been made this week to a tip line and his law office, “and we’ve gotten legitimate tips. Some of them are (just) ‘I watched ‘Tiger King,’ and I think Carole Baskin did it ‘ – kind of wasteful. But then there’s some pretty specific tips and locations mentioned that we’re gonna check out.”
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Baskin told USA TODAY via email Friday that she hopes the mystery surrounding her former husband is solved.
“Nothing would please me more than for Don to finally be found, as it would certainly prove my innocence,” she wrote.
Phillips was reluctant to share specifics about the new leads, citing an active investigation.
“Some locations that we need to check out have been revealed. Some people we need to check out have been revealed,” he says. “We’re gonna take some statements and see where it leads.
“The problem with this case over the last 23 years is not enough people have provided information,” he says. “And now we almost have the opposite problem – that we have too much information.”
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Phillips says he has assembled a team to sort through it all, and counts a private Facebook group, Don Lewis Cold Case Files, as a resource. He says the group “has been immensely helpful with finding documents and investigating tips.”
Phillips is less impressed with the efforts of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Chad Chronister announced on Twitter in March that he was seeking new leads in Lewis’ case, citing the popularity of “Tiger King.”
But the office was also close-mouthed about its investigation.
“The disappearance of Don Lewis is still an active and open investigation,” said chief communications officer Crystal Clark, in an emailed statement Thursday. “In order to avoid releasing information that could compromise our investigation, we don’t have anything further to add at this time, other than our continued request for anyone in the public with information to call our detectives at 813-247-8200.”
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