Jim Rathmann

Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, Don Lewis Mystery Examined on ID, Lead Investigator Jim Rathmann Exclusive Interview

Exclusives, Reality TV

The Joe Exotic saga is far from over.

Investigation Discovery is revisiting the troubling cloud that hangs over the Joe Exotic story, the missing person case that involved Carole Baskin’s husband Don Lewis, who Exotic alleged had been killed by the big cat rescue activist in  Joe Exotic: Tigers, Lies And Cover-Up.

This weekend two separate documentaries are airing that will bring new evidence and information to this troubling case.

TV Shows Ace has the scoop and interviewed the lead investigator on Joe Exotic: Tigers, Lies And Cover-Up—Jim Rathmann—about the ongoing pursuit of truth in the Lewis disappearance.

The shocking feud that sent the world into a meme-making tizzy is not going away. It’s all fun and games until whispers of murder are revealed, as Joe Exotic had alleged Carole Baskin had her husband Don Lewis killed. The two warred in the media and online for over ten years.

What we do know is that Don Lewis went missing in 1997. No word of him, no sign of foul play, no body discovered, Don just vanished.  Currently Joe is in prison for attempted murder, sentenced for 22 years, and Carole is hoofing it up on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

What is coming this weekend for the continuance of the Joe Exotic story?

Joe Exotic is dominating the programming on Investigation Discovery this weekend.

ID’s definitive sequel, Joe Exotic: Tigers, Lies And Cover-Up examines what happened to Carole Baskin’s husband, Don Lewis.  This three-hour special features Jim Rathmann as it takes a new look at the evidence surrounding Lewis’s mysterious disappearance, featuring exclusive jailhouse interviews from the biggest character in the world: Joe Exotic himself.

Beyond the controversial missing person investigation, this special featuring Rathmann also explores the criminal case against Joe Exotic and raises the question: Was Joe Exotic the predator all along, or was he the prey?

To round out the event, ID will present the definitive prequel to the sage in Joe Exotic: Before He Was King on Monday, September 28 at 10pm. The one-hour special examines the childhood traumas and dramatic events which shaped the mind of the man who called himself the “Tiger King.”

Investigation Discovery says:

What has happened since the cameras stopped rolling? ID’s definitive sequel, JoeExotic: Tigers, LIes And Cover-Up, examines the biggest question in true crime today – what happened to Carole Baskin’s husband, Don Lewis? This three-hour special takes a new look at the evidence. Retired homicide investigator Jim Rathmann leads the investigation to discover the truth, revealing new theories uncovered by private investigators, reliving Lewis’s final days and demeanor with those closest to him, and unpacking evidence exposed by criminal and legal experts. Punctuated throughout are interviews with those in Joe Exotic’s inner circle, including his husband Dillon Passage and members of “Team Tiger,” a group working to free Joe from jail.

“The bizarre and troubling saga of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin is, perhaps, one of the most convoluted mysteries ever revealed,” said Henry Schleiff, Group President Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, American Heroes Channel and Destination America. “In these two specials, ID will take viewers through the complete story and determine who should really be in the cage.”

Immediately following the finale of this event is Joe Exotic: Before He Was King, which dives into backstory on Exotic, his childhood traumas and events which shaped the mind of the man who called himself the “Tiger King.” ID has put together a qualified panel of forensic psychologists and law enforcement experts including ID star Derrick Levasseur, as they reveal the troubled past of the man behind the hype. King’s’ inner circle and Joe’s second husband, Jeffrey Charles “JC” Hartpence are interviewed.  The one-hour special puts the story in context and uncovers dark secrets about Joe’s past.

TV Shows Ace interviewed the lead investigator Jim Rathmann:

The most obvious first question is how did you get involved with a television show that focused on Joe Exotic?

Jim Rathmann: Originally and much like everybody else back in the early part of Spring, I was totally pulled in by the Joe Exotic saga. But when I watched that, there was a real family that was hurting, which was Don Lewis’s family.

His daughters are wonderful professional, beautiful women, and they haven’t had closure for 23 years. No idea what happened to their father. I recently lost my father and I have a place to go to memorialize my father.

I feel I have a unique skill set for investigating really tough cases. So I want to lend a hand and provide any type of answers that I can to get them closure that they so rightfully deserve. After 23 years…

How did you connect to the Lewis family?

Jim Rathmann:  Once I started investigating this I just started getting tagged and started talking to different people and investigating. Eventually it led me to Don Lewis’s daughters.

And once they verified who I was, and that I was an investigator and had many years of experience in doing this.

They invited me out to the house and talked for several hours about everything, from Don, how he grew up, about the daughters, their childhood, the relationship, and it really put a good human element to Don and what he was all about.

Where are you based?

Jim Rathmann:  I’m currently in Orlando, Florida.

Okay. So you reached out to the Lewis family. They’re also in Florida?

Jim Rathmann:  Yes, they’re in Tampa.

And you guys connected, they trusted you and you offered your services to further the investigation?

Jim Rathmann:  I was investigating independently. I’m doing this on my own. And it was kind of personal. I just really wanted to be able to help him find some closure. So that’s why I got involved with it.

How did the production company and Investigation Discovery find you?

Jim Rathmann:  Yes as I was finding a lot of this information and doing [the investigation], I was also doing some stuff and putting some things out on a podcast and they happen to have listened to the podcast.

And this goes back many months ago…when they contacted me and they said, ‘wow, this is some information nobody’s ever heard before. can we follow you around while you investigate this?’

Of course I didn’t have a problem with that at all. So it was just a great alignment, I guess. Great timing.

It must cause the Lewis family, a lot of discomfort seeing Carol Baskin on ABC’s dancing with the stars. How did they feel about that?

Jim Rathmann:  Well, I would imagine they’re pretty upset about it. I thought it was a great play that they did along with their attorney to get an ad out there.

Whether you love Carole Baskin or hate Carole Baskin, you’re going to be drawn to that TV screen. So I can most certainly see why they would bring her onto Dancing with the Stars.

But I think the play of running an ad that very first week when everybody’s eyes are focused on what she’s able to do on the dance floor, it made sense.

But it was able to reach so many people to try to find that last clue, that last missing piece that puts the whole puzzle together today.

So they genuinely feel that Carole Baskin had her husband killed, had their father killed?

Jim Rathmann:  I know that that’s going to be coming up in court with their attorney and everything. That’d be a good question for them to answer.

Obviously they have quite a bit of suspicions that there’s some sort of involvement with the father’s disappearance and what her involvement could be with that.

But I think that’s a question that they should probably answer more for themselves on that

Take me through how you conduct the interviews and what we can expect to see from you in this documentary…

Jim Rathmann:   So typically, when you work in an investigation you want to gather all the facts you have… and then let the facts take you wherever the investigation is going to take you through all the twists and turns.

And so, it was grabbing the established facts that we knew about the case, and then start working it from there. That’s exactly what I did, find the key players.

Whenever I’ve worked an investigation in the past, you want to start with the family first and work your way out. Those closest to Don Lewis and then always follow the money. Following the money will always take you where you need to go.

I just kind of use that same technique and those same skill sets that I’ve acquired over the years. And it really turned into an awful lot of information that wasn’t heard of 23 years ago.

What have you discovered about Carole Baskin in your investigation? Who is she to you?

Jim Rathmann:  She hasn’t spoken to me. She refused to speak to me. but the people that I’ve talked to have really painted a very good picture and that’s going to be all throughout the series about how she was, how she lived in her home.

We interviewed her ex-boyfriend that had even his teenage son living there in the house and just her demeanor and how she treated others.

I can tell you that while investigating this, there were some suspicions—granted she could have answers—she could have valid reasons for why certain things took place. And as long as they remain unanswered, the suspicions are going to be there.

Quite honestly, one of the big things that was found was when I interviewed Kenny Farr’s ex wife, Trish. Kenny was Don Lewis’s handyman who eventually became Carole’s handyman.

But one month after Don disappeared, Carole sold him three of Don’s properties that were estimated to be well over six figures for a total of $9,080.

And a $9,000 transaction looks completely different than a $10,000 transaction cause a $10,000 transaction leaves a paper trail.

What’s your personal opinion about Joe Exotic?

Jim Rathmann: Well, I don’t think anyone can deny that Joe lived a very wild lifestyle and he just put it all out there. He was wild, he was crazy. And he ran his mouth quite a bit and some of that obviously came back to get him later on.

But the one thing about Joe is that Joe’s very black and white. If he likes you, he’ll tell you if he doesn’t like you, he’s going to let it be known.

He’s not going to hide behind anything. He’s going to be very upfront and in the open with all of it. And when you take that, it’s just telling you exactly how it is. That’s the impression I have of Joe.

I’ve been fortunate enough to communicate with Joe almost daily, especially by email. And he’s the same way through that as well. He’s very transparent. He lets you know exactly what he thinks and exactly what he feels.

I think a lot of people in their gut really felt despite all of his unethical acts and personal idiosyncrasies that he was a genuine person as to your point, maybe Carole Baskin really was the villain in this piece at the end of all of it. And a lot of people had that feeling. Do you feel that the story will flip after you get your chance to tell it on, on ID?

Jim Rathmann:  Well, I can most certainly tell you that we’re going to reveal what we found and it’s going to be backed up with facts and documents and that’s going to be displayed for everybody.

The greatest thing about what I think is going to happen come Monday evening when the finale is complete, is that everyone is going to know exactly what was going on.

And they’re going to really be able to judge for themselves on whether someone was or was not involved in this case. And it will disprove some of the theories that were out there, because there were many of them.

And it’s really going to kind of zone in on what they’re [viewers] going to be able to think for themselves.

Were they involved? Were they not involved? But it will be very revealing… I can assure you that.

Are you worried about lawsuits?

Jim Rathmann:  What’s found out there is public record. what we’ve been able to find. It isn’t like we went and paid someone to give us some information to make up something that wasn’t backed up with facts. So, many people have their eyes on this.

Many people are looking at this and try and do investigate it. I just try to do it honestly ethically and have everything with factual documents to back it up again. do things look suspicious?

Of course they do, but she very well could have valid reasons answers for it. But until she comes out and says what those reasons are, it’s just going to leave that shadow of a doubt.

What do you predict will happen in the long run for the Lewis family?

Jim Rathmann:  I actually feel that eventually they’re going to get that closure they’ve been searching for. I think the answers are going to eventually be there. The puzzle will be put together.

I think the discovery that their attorney is doing is a very smart move. That’s going to allow for some under oath depositions and some questions to be asked specifically about the disappearance.

And in 23 years, that is something that has never happened as far as the case goes. we’ve had a good working relationship with Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister who reopened this case. He assigned detectives to it and it is an active case for them.

Once they gather all the information that’s been provided to them and they fact check on their own, that it really be up to the Sheriff’s office and the district attorney that those Grove County, where they want to go with it from there.

The two-night event begins on Sunday, September 27 at 9pm and concludes on Monday at 9pm, with the first hour currently unlocked now at IDGO: https://www.investigationdiscovery.com/tv-shows/joe-exotic-tigers-lies-and-cover-up/
JOE EXOTIC: TIGERS, LIES AND COVER-UP begins with Part 1 & 2 airing Sunday, September 27 at 9/8c and concludes with Part 3 on Monday, September 28 at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.
JOE EXOTIC: BEFORE HE WAS KING premieres Monday, September 28 at 10/9c on ID.

April Neale

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