‘Cursed’ Tiger King stars who befriended Joe Exotic but ended up dead, in prison or divorced

THE second series of Tiger King currently has the lion's share of Netflix viewers on the edge of their seats.

But, despite Joe Exotic and the rest of the cast becoming household names when the first series aired last year, many have fallen victim to the Tiger King curse.


Eccentric Joe's fourth husband Travis Maldonado was 23 years old when he shot himself in the zoo's gift shop – with his death covered in an episode of Tiger King.

And Joe, himself, is serving time in prison while also living with cancer – and it hasn't been a bed of roses for his fellow cast members.

Several of those who cropped up in the series have since been slapped with animal cruelty charges, arrested for drink driving and, this week, it was revealed that reptile dealer Jeff Johnson passed away in September after he reportedly shot himself in front of his wife after the pair got into an argument.

According to TMZ, Jeff was immediately rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Jeff made a brief appearance in episode four of the first season of Tiger King, where he spoke to Carole Baskin.

He was originally friends with Joe, until he got involved with Jeff Lowe.

But Jeff is, by no means, the only Tiger King star to have experienced turbulence since the show aired on Netflix.

Found dead in apartment

Earlier this year, zookeeper Erik Cowie was found dead in his New York apartment, aged 53.

There was nothing suspicious about the death, sources told TMZ, and no drugs were found at the scene, but it is likely that a toxicology test will still be performed.

In the past, Erik – who worked at Joe’s zoo for eight years – has admitted to having a drinking problem but denied speculation he was a meth addict.

Earlier this year, he ran into legal trouble after being busted for a DUI in Oklahoma following a car accident.

However, he did not show up to his court appearance, which led to an arrest warrant being issued in May.

But Erik is, by no means, the only Tiger King star to have experienced turbulence since the show aired on Netflix.

Cancer diagnosis in prison

In January 2020, Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison for 17 federal charges for animal abuse and an attempted murder-for-hire plot against his nemesis Carole Baskin.

And earlier this year, the former zookeeper was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

However, he’s been told all tests, medical visits and blood probes were "not happening" and doctors fear his cancer has spread to his pelvis and stomach.

He even told us he was scared he’ll die of coronavirus in prison due to a weakened immune system.

Last month, he told us he's waited for months to get care after his prostate cancer was diagnosed, but revealed he will not get chemotherapy if the condition has reached Stage 3 or beyond.

Joe has always maintained his innocence and Team Tiger, a group of lawyers and supporters, has been working behind the scenes for his release. 

And following the US Court of Appeals' decision to review the sentence he was given, Joe is now awaiting a re-sentencing.

Couple arrested for drink driving

Jeff Lowe and his wife Lauren were arrested in Oklahoma for driving under the influence in June.

Jeff was additionally charged with changing lanes improperly, according to People.

In a copy of the incident report, officers reportedly spotted a white Range Rover pulling out of a parking lot, before driving over a curb and then stopping abruptly. 

Police alleged Lauren got out of the driver's seat and swapped places with Jeff, who then took over driving. 

Both Jeff and Lauren were said to be slurring their speech and had "a strong odor commonly associated with the consumption of an alcoholic beverage".

The married couple – who took over Joe’s exotic animal park – were both arrested just two weeks after they were accused of violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA) following an investigation that found instances of animal mistreatment at their Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma.

Arrested for drink driving and divorced Joe

Joe’s fifth husband, Dillon Passage, was also arrested for drink driving in November, and apparently name-dropped Joe’s name as the police cuffed him.

Dillon, 25, made police "aware of his social status and marriage to famed Joe Maldonado-Passage on scene of the incident,” TMZ reported.

When questioned by police, Dillon gave the incorrect time and location.

Police also said Dillon had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and they detected alcohol in his breath.

He said his vehicle had suddenly stopped running and that he was waiting of this sister, and admitted to drinking three Modelo beers and being “maybe a bit intoxicated.”

Dillon eventually announced he and Joe were divorcing in an Instagram post, earlier this year.

He said: “To answer the main question the public wants to know, yes, Joe and I are seeking a divorce.” 

He added: "In November of 2017 I met Joe who was there for me during a difficult time in my life.

"After just 9 short months he was arrested and, for the last two and a half years, we have been apart. I’ve always stood by his side and will continue to always love and support him."

Charged with wildlife trafficking

Bhagavan “Doc” Antle owned Myrtle Beach Safari, in South Carolina, which he ran with his three girlfriends and children for 37 years.

The zoo – where you could pet tiger cubs – was very popular until Doc featured on Tiger King.

In October last year, he was indicted on 15 charges including wildlife trafficking and animal cruelty related to his activity with lions.

The charges stemmed from a months-long investigation into illegal selling and transportation of lions between Doc and Keith Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Winchester, Virginia.

Keith had been indicted on identical charges to Doc, plus four additional counts of conspiracy.

Two of Doc’s daughters were also indicted on misdemeanour counts of cruelty to animals and violating the Endangered Species Act. 

Permanently banned from owning animals

Tim Stark, former owner of Wildlife in Need in Charlestown, Indiana was a one-time trading partner of Joe.

However, earlier this year, a judge banned him from ever owning animals again.

Tim’s licence was revoked after a string of allegations of mistreatment of animals, including the placement of an ostrich in an emu enclosure that resulted in the violent death of the bird.

He was also accused of putting 100 animals in a 28-foot trailer with no air circulation for 36 hours, leading to the death of 30 of those animals.

Tim was also ordered to return any money intended for his business that he pocketed for himself.

The Indianapolis Zoo will continue to care for the animals that were taken from his facility last September. 

‘Hitman’ arrested for drink driving

The alleged hitman that Joe hired to kill Carole was arrested for driving under the influence, driving under suspension, and alcohol with a broken seal, last month.

Handyman Frank Allen Glover “appeared to be disoriented, uncoordinated, and had an unsteady walk,” before walking over to his van, according to police reports.

Police said Frank told them he had been participating in adult entertainment establishments activities "for a couple of minutes" and had "two beers" before the police checked on him.

He told them he didn’t know he didn’t know his alphabet or numbers, before he was taken to the Valley Brook police station, where he failed a breathalyser test.

Frank – who has said he never had any intention of killing Carole – was released the next day.

It looks like there really is a Tiger King curse.

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