Zookeeper Joe Exotic Sentenced To 22 Years For Hiring Hitman To Kill Rival

An Oklahoma zookeeper arrested in Gulf Breeze on a murder for hire plot was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Wednesday.

In April, a federal jury convicted Joseph Maldonado-Passage of trying to kill a long-time critic and perceived rival, Carole Baskin, CEO of the Tampa animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue.

Maldonado-Passage also “personally shot and killed five tigers in October 2017,” according to the Department of Justice, and falsified documents related to the sale of tigers, lions and a baby lemur. 

The big cat breeder operated a roadside zoo in Oklahoma, where he developed a cult following for his larger-than-life personality, his platinum-blonde mullet and his online show documenting the lives of animals at his zoo. Maldonado-Passage unsuccessfully ran for president of the United States and governor of Oklahoma. He spent a brief period in Gulf Breeze before his arrest in September 2018.