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Don Lewis disappearance: Ex-wife of handyman fears he was involved

Don Lewis' handyman Kenny Farr has been accused by his ex-wife of playing a role in his disappearance in 1997

Don Lewis’ handyman Kenny Farr has been accused by his ex-wife of playing a role in his disappearance in 1997

A new witness may hold the missing link in discovering the fate of Carole Baskin’s missing husband Don Lewis. 

The ex-wife of Baskin’s former handyman claims in a new documentary that he brought home a large freezer with a padlock that also disappeared around the time that Lewis was reported missing. 

Trish Farr-Payne says in her first TV interview with ’48 Hours Suspicion’ on CBS that her former husband Kenny Farr told her Lewis was gone and not to speak about him.

She says she didn’t come forward sooner as she was scared of what would happen to her and her kids.  

‘I was afraid for my kids,’ Farr-Payne tells Richard Schlesinger in the interview set to broadcast on September 9. 

‘You know, I had my kids. I was afraid for them. I was more afraid for them than anything.’ 

Farr-Payne believes her ex may be linked to the disappearance as two days before Lewis was reported missing, he told her: ‘Don’s gone, and I don’t want you talking about him.’ 

She adds that it was around that time the large freezer appeared on her porch with no explanation. 

‘How long after Don disappeared did the freezer disappear?’ Schlesinger asks her.

‘About a week after Don disappeared,’ she admits.

Trish Farr-Payne says in her first TV interview with '48 Hours Suspicion' that her former husband Kenny Farr brought home a large freezer with a padlock that disappeared around the time that Lewis was reported missing. She believes her husband could have been involved

Trish Farr-Payne says in her first TV interview with ’48 Hours Suspicion’ that her former husband Kenny Farr brought home a large freezer with a padlock that disappeared around the time that Lewis was reported missing. She believes her husband could have been involved

Lewis - who started the animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue Corp. in Tampa, Florida, with Carole Baskin - vanished in 1997. His body was never found and he was declared dead in 2002

Lewis – who started the animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue Corp. in Tampa, Florida, with Carole Baskin – vanished in 1997. His body was never found and he was declared dead in 2002

Carole Baskin has never been an official suspect in Lewis' disappearance

Carole Baskin has never been an official suspect in Lewis’ disappearance

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Farr-Payne told the cops back in 2000 that she believed her husband was involved in Lewis’ disappearance.  

She says that on the weekend in 1997 when Lewis disappeared, Farr stayed home from work when he normally went to the animal park seven days a week. 

She said he received a call and left before 1pm with a man she also believed did work for Lewis and returned alone that Sunday night a little before midnight driving Lewis’ van. 

Farr-Payne also claimed he backed up the van to the house and when he opened the door, there were pistols and rifles inside. 

She says he left the next day in Lewis’ van and returned in his own flatbed truck. 

Baskin claims she gave Farr the guns long after Lewis disappeared. 

On one instance she alleges he told her that if she left him she’d end up ‘in the grinder like I did Don’. 

According to court records, Baskin and Farr transferred a half-dozen properties, back and forth, starting a months after Lewis disappeared. 

On the series, Farr denied knowing anything about what happened to Lewis and according to the Times, Tiger King director Rebecca Chaiklin said she was told by a former detective on the case that he had been given a lie detector test that showed he was not being deceptive.  

Don Lewis’ remains have never been found and there have been no criminal charges filed for his mysterious 1997 disappearance, although authorities have previously stated they don’t believe he disappeared on his own volition. 

Don Lewis' remains have never been found and there have been no criminal charges filed for his mysterious 1997 disappearance

Don Lewis’ remains have never been found and there have been no criminal charges filed for his mysterious 1997 disappearance

Lewis – who started the animal sanctuary which later became Big Cat Rescue Corp. in Tampa, Florida, with Carole Baskin – vanished a day before a scheduled trip to Costa Rica. 

Farr-Payne’s claim that Lewis may have been in the freezer are in contrast to the allegations made by Joe Exotic on hit Netflix show Tiger King that Carol Baskin killed her husband and fed him to the tigers they kept in their rescue park.  

Baskin has continuously denied that she had any role in her husband’s disappearance and she has never been officially named as a suspect. 

In August, Lewis’ family filed a lawsuit against Baskin and offered a $100,000 reward for anyone with information about what happened to him over two decades ago.

The family is also targeting Farr, who appeared briefly in Tiger King, and a woman who witnessed the signing of Lewis’ will. 

That woman, Susan A. Bradshaw, told the Tampa Bay Times in 2005 that Baskin told her to say she was there for the will signing however she claims she was not.

Farr has been accused by Lewis’ assistant Anne McQueen of helping Baskin to remove documents and dismantle his office just days after his disappearance. 

She said wouldn’t have done this if they believed Lewis was coming back.  

Tiger King tells the real-life story of a zoo owner Joe Exotic, who spirals out of control amid a cast of eccentric characters in a true murder-for-hire story from the underworld of big cat breeding.

Kenny Farr appeared briefly in Tiger King and denied he was involved in Lewis' disappearance

Kenny Farr appeared briefly in Tiger King and denied he was involved in Lewis’ disappearance

A section of the show explores the controversy surrounding Joe Exotic’s nemesis Baskin and the disappearance of Jack ‘Don’ Lewis from Tampa in 1997.

He was formally declared dead in 2002. 

Shortly after his disappearance, Baskin – his wife at the time and the last known person to see him alive – produced his will and his power of attorney that gave her complete control of his $5 million estate. 

Lewis’ former attorney has previously claimed that his client’s signature was forged on two documents that effectively surrendered his fortune to the Tiger King star after he vanished. 

Carole is now married to Howard Baskin (pictured left) and she has not been charged in Lewis' disappearance

Carole is now married to Howard Baskin (pictured left) and she has not been charged in Lewis’ disappearance

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister confirmed in June that experts had deemed the will was ‘100 percent a forgery’ although no culprit was named. 

Despite Baskin’s denials, the case quickly became one of the most discussed parts of the show as the internet was taken over by conspiracy theories.

Other theories included the blonde Texan burying his body under a septic tank, Don crashing his plane, and Don starting a new life in Costa Rica.

Baskin herself said she thinks Don either fled to Costa Rica, or he was thrown off a plane over the Gulf of Mexico. His car was recovered at an airfield in Pasco County.

Detectives have said there was no way one of Don’s private planes could have held enough fuel to take him all the way to Costa Rica, after Baskin said he would often fly below the radar because he had lost his pilot’s license.

Baskin has since married second husband Howard. 

On August 10, an attorney for the Lewis family announced the independent investigation into his death. 

‘We’re going to serve (Baskin) with a lawsuit, but not a lawsuit for damages, it’s a lawsuit for equity,’ said John Philips.

The bill of discovery would allow them to get information before deciding who to sue.

It means depositions or subpoenas could be in the cards. 

The family of Lewis is offering $100,000 in exchange for information to help solve the case

The family of Lewis is offering $100,000 in exchange for information to help solve the case

'We're going to serve (Baskin) with a lawsuit, but not a lawsuit for damages, it's a lawsuit for equity,' the family's attorney John Phillips said in early August during the briefing

‘We’re going to serve (Baskin) with a lawsuit, but not a lawsuit for damages, it’s a lawsuit for equity,’ the family’s attorney John Phillips said in early August during the briefing

‘Generally you announce a $150 million lawsuit and how we’re going to get justice. And we are going to do all of that in time,’ Phillips continued. ‘But our office wants to invite reason, to invite civil conversation where it can be had.

‘Resolving this case is in everyone’s best interest. I believe it’s in Carole Baskin’s best interest. I invite her to the table. I invite her to talk, and let us know what really happened.

‘I will ask one time, for civility. I will ask one time that we come together to find closure of this whole thing. If that can’t be done, I’m a lawyer. I sue people. We’ll go that route too. Make no mistake, if the family’s offer for civility is rejected, if the insults continue, the next step is to bring justice, because justice is love.’

The family has paid for Tampa-area billboards asking for information in the case.

‘We worked for weeks in raising this money,’ Lewis’ oldest daughter, Donna Pettis, said. 

‘An anonymous donor came forward guaranteeing the $100,000. We’re hoping that with these funds someone will have the courage to come forward and provide the information to solve this case.’

Lewis’ family has set up a tip line at (646) 450-6530. 

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