Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage (né Schreibvogel), better known as Joe Exotic or “The Tiger King,” is one of the most eccentric, controversial, and infamous characters in the history of zookeepers due to his legal troubles in the past few years. From ID’s ‘Joe Exotic: Tigers, Lies, and Cover-up’ to Netflix’s ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness,’ his captivating story has been chronicled in numerous programs. Thus, now that he’s back into the spotlight for appealing his conviction, let’s find out everything there is to know about him, including his current whereabouts, shall we?
Who is Joe Exotic?
Although he was born in Garden City, Kansas, on March 5, 1963, as one of five children, Joe Exotic spent a majority of his early years in Texas, where he joined the Eastvale Police Department right after high school. He soon became chief and served his district for around three years before a tragic car accident nearly cost him his life. While he once claimed that it was the result of his work, he changed his narrative in 2019 by stating that it was a suicide attempt after being outed by a sibling to his parents. That is when he relocated to Florida and chose to pursue his passion for pets.
On West Palm Beach, Florida, while undergoing vigorous physical therapy for his injuries, Joe worked at a local pet store and had a friend who often let him handle exotic animals that they cared for while serving at a nearby safari park. Loving this new profession, Joe took up a few small jobs upon returning to Texas before opening his own pet store in Arlington. However, after the accidental death of his brother Garold “G.W.” Wayne in 1997, also the co-owner, Joe sold the shop to buy farmland in Oklahoma. It became G.W. Zoo less than two years later and is still running today.
Until 2018, Joe worked as the head of G.W. Zoo, which is now named The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, and built a reputation for himself as the most prolific breeder and a leading expert in the care of big cats in the United States of America. During his tenure, he traveled all across the nation for events, released two country music albums themed around his career, and even tried his hand at online talk shows and reality television. Joe left the zoo in June 2018 and was arrested three months later for two attempted murder-for-hire plots against his rival Carole Baskin.
According to court records, Joe had repeatedly threatened the life of The Big Cat Rescue founder and animal rights activist, even going as far as to try and hire two men to kill Carole because of their long, bitter, and public feud. He allegedly gave someone $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to Florida to carry out the hit and offered more. He’d also stated that he’d sell a “bunch of tigers” to pay his hitman on another occasion. With this and an inquiry by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, Joe Exotic additionally faced numerous federal animal abuse charges.
Is Joe Exotic Still in Jail? When Will He Be Released?
In 2019, Joe Exotic was found guilty of 17 federal charges of animal abuse and two counts of attempted murder-for-hire-plots, for which he received 22 years behind bars. Except, upon an appeal, in July 2021, a three-judge panel for the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determined that the trial court treated his convictions incorrectly. Instead of handling both his murder-for-hire verdicts as one, they were separated while calculating his prison sentence, which wasn’t right. Therefore, while they affirmed his conviction and denied a retrial, they did order a new sentence.
Joe was given nine years each for the two attempted murder-for-hire charges and four years for animal abuse. Hence, he is now likely to get a shorter penalty, which should be between 17.5 years to under 22. Previously, this range was 22-27 years, as per federal guidelines. Joe is still fighting to get his conviction overturned, but he’ll remain incarcerated until then. So, at the age of 58, he’s currently at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, where he’s undergoing tests to confirm the stage of his prostate cancer and seeking treatment. As of writing, his release date is July 30, 2037. We should also mention that Joe’s autobiography, ‘Tiger King: The Official Tell-All Memoir,’ will be released later this year.