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Tiger King star Carole Baskin’s dead husband’s signature on his will was forged, says sheriff

TIGER King star Carole Baskin's late husband's will signature was forged, according to cop, local to her Tampa, Florida, base.

The signature of Don Lewis - who vanished in 1997 - was forged in the opinion of Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, on Tuesday.

"They had two experts deem it 100 percent a forgery. But, we knew that...we knew that before," Chronister told 10 Tampa Bay.

According to Chronister, the problem was that the statute of limitations had expired for any crime related to the will.

"The will had already been executed at that point," Chronister told them. "But, it certainly cast another shadow of suspicion, by all means."

Lewis was the missing millionaire husband of the Big Cat Rescue founder, one of the Netflix series' stars. He vanished from Tampa in 1997.

Lewis was formally declared dead in 2002.

The popular series raised questions about whether Baskin knew anything about her late husband's disappearance. She has repeatedly denied involvement.

Lewis' estate is believed to have been worth up to $10 million, which was left to Baskin, and his family cut out - according to Fox.

Last month, Lewis' friend and former lawyer Joseph Fritz told Fox News he thought his client's signature was forged on the document that gave Baskin Lewis' money.

"I believe it was traced," Fritz told Nancy Grace.

The notary listed on the will and power of attorney does not remember authenticating those documents, reports the Clarion-Ledger newspaper.  

The paper said two different handwriting experts had each concluded Lewis' signature appears to have been "traced" from his 1991 marriage record.

Chronister previously told 10 Tampa Bay that he believes Lewis was "murdered" and did not simply disappear in 1997 but has not said who he thinks might be responsible.

In April, the sheriff said the last contact his agency had with Baskin was in 2011, when she turned down a polygraph test based on the advice of legal counsel.

It comes as Carole was granted ownership of her rival Joe Exotic's former zoo in Oklahoma following a bombshell legal ruling.

The 58-year-old animal activist is the owner of Big Cat Rescue in Florida and now her competitor Joe's 16.4-acre G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park.

Jailed Joe gave the Wynnewood-based zoo to his former business partner Jeff Lowe and his mother, but now a judge has ruled that his transfer of the zoo land to them a few years ago was fraudulent.

The judge granted Carole complete control of the land to help counter an outstanding $1million judgement that Joe was ordered to pay her for copyright infringement, on Monday.

According to a copy of the ruling published by Courthouse News Service, Joe's former business partner Jeff has 120 days to vacate the premises, leaving all of his exotic animals who reside on the property there.

Baskin's Big Cat Rescue was also granted ownership of several additional cabins and multiple vehicles on the property.

Big Cat Rescue initially sued Joe's mother Shirley M. Schreibvogel alleging that the transfer of the Oklahoma zoo was fraudulent in February 2016.

Shirley allegedly later admitted in 2015 that the zoo land was fraudulently handed to her in 2011 to avoid creditors.

The complaint read: "Schreibvogel later admitted under oath that the zoo land was transferred to her by Joe Maldonado to remove it from the reach of creditors, including BCR, should BCR win its Florida lawsuit".

Last month, Joe's former zoo had re-opened under the new name Tiger King Park following the success of the Netflix docu-series.

However, Tiger King director Eric Goode told Entertainment Weekly in March it hadn't been making much money.- not just because of the current coronavirus pandemic.

Carole became a worldwide known figure after Tiger King dropped in March and made her the center of conspiracy theories that she had something to do with her husband Don Lewis' disappearance.

The animal rescuer was also the target of violent threats from the Tiger King himself, Joe Exotic, who claimed Carole was the reason his business was failing.

Carole accused Joe of animal cruelty and sued the private zoo owner for threatening her.

Joe was sentenced to a 22-year jail sentence after being found guilty of paying a hitman to kill Carole and killing tigers to make room for more exotic cats in his animal park.

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