Murder-for-hire docuseries entertains during COVID-19 lockdown
Sofia Rositani – Reporter
Netflix recently dropped “Tiger King,” a limited series that explores the world of breeding tigers, polygamy and murder.
The show’s main character of sorts is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka “Joe Exotic.” He operated a big cat zoo in Oklahoma, where he bred tigers. Today, Joe Exotic is in jail for hiring a murder-for-hire on his “arch nemesis” Carole Baskins, a woman in Florida who owns a Big Cat Rescue.
In 1989, Exotic purchased his first store with his brother, Garold Wayne. Once his brother died in a car accident, he used the settlement money to buy a ranch in Oklahoma where he would turn it into a zoo, named “The Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Park” in honor of his brother. For his zoo to continue flourishing, he bred a variety of animals, such as tiger cubs, held tours and charged fans a fee for photos.
Exotic may have become a celebrity, but because he continuously bred his animals, he became a target of animal rights activists for accusations of animal abuse. The person targeting him most was Carole Baskins.
Carole Baskins is the founder of Big Cats Rescue in Tampa, Fla. She said she has had a love for cats since childhood.
Baskins opened the sanctuary in the 1990’s with her late husband, Don Lewis. Lewis disappeared mysteriously in 1997, with theories from Lewis’s daughters and first wife stating that Baskins killed him and fed him to her tigers. Instead of breeding big cats, Baskins would rather give them a place to live, where they are able to spend the remaining time of their lives.
For Baskins to stop Exotic from breeding his animals, she worked with her admirers to go online and send multiple emails to those hosting his shows to hinder the performance from occurring.
Exotic thought of Baskins as phony for generating revenue from her big cats’ refuge. He went out of his way to make life difficult for Baskins. He posted videos online of Baskins journal and got the her diary from Baskins’ former employee. The journal has written entries stating that she killed her former husband.
Exotic’s life spiraled out of control in 2017. He hired one of his employees to fly to Tampa, Fla. and have Baskin killed. He gave his employee $3,000 to commit murder. His employee, once in Tampa, got cold feet. Instead of committing the murder he used the money to frequent numerous strip clubs. The FBI had already initiated an investigation against Exotic for abusing animals at the his zoo. Once the federal agents discovered he tried to have Baskins killed, the FBI had an undercover operative to commit the second attempt on Baskin’s life.
In 2019, Exotic went on trial and was found guilty on 21 counts which include the attempted murder on Baskin, and for abusing numerous tigers. In 2020, the judge sentenced him to 22 years in prison and he is now held at Grady County Jail in Oklahoma.
Baskins, who was in the series with her current husband, found the series “salacious and sensational,” which Baskins wrote on her Big Cats Rescue website, due to the way they exposed her alleged participation in her former husband’s disappearance.
Although many people enjoyed the TV series, I however found it as entertaining as any other murder-for-hire docuseries and TV shows. I found no difference between Exotic and Baskin regarding the malevolent treatment of the animals. They both generated revenue for using animals in a live performance. Anyone who shelters animals like big cats in a small cell are committing malicious acts upon innocent animals. The jury’s decision finding Exotic guilty was appropriate, but they are both guilty for abusing the majestic animals.