Target of alleged murder-for-hire scheme speaks out - - Texoma news, weather and sports

Target of alleged murder-for-hire scheme speaks out

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Carole Baskin, left, and Joseph Maldonado-Passage (KTEN) Carole Baskin, left, and Joseph Maldonado-Passage (KTEN)
Joseph Maldonado-Passage was booked on September 7, 2018. (Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office) Joseph Maldonado-Passage was booked on September 7, 2018. (Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office)

The Florida exotic animal zoo executive who said she was the target of a murder-for-hire scheme by an Oklahoma exotic zoo rival is now speaking out.

Joseph Maldonado-Passage -- owner of Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park who also staged an unsuccessful campaign for Oklahoma governor -- was arrested in Florida Friday on two counts of murder-for-hire.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment alleging that Maldonado-Passage -- also known as "Joe Exotic" -- hired an unnamed person in November 2017 to murder an unidentified woman in Florida.

Carol Baskin, the founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida, said she was the suspect's target, adding that Maldonado-Passage held a long grudge against her organization after it won a $1 million judgment against him for violating its intellectual property.

"Maldonado ran, in our view, one of the most notorious cub petting roadside zoos in the country in Wynnewood," Big Cat Rescue said in a written statement.

The judgment apparently failed to silence Maldando-Passage, with Baskin saying it was just the start of an eight-year-long harassment campaign, including including multiple death threats.

"If you want to know why Carole Baskin never, ever, ever, see me face-to-face never, ever, ever again," Maldonado said in one video just before firing a gun into the effigy of a woman in front of a "Big Cat Rescue" sign. "That is how sick and tired of this s*** I am."

"He shot that dummy I don't know how many times. He had a jar on the desk that had my head in it," Baskin told KTEN. "He stressed that the dummy with 'Big Cat Rescue' on it and held a gun to the head, and had a bow and arrow pointed at it, and had it hanging."

If Maldonado-Passage is found guilty of the murder-for-hire charges, he could be imprisoned on each count up to 10 years.

Baskin said she says will continue fighting.

"I love the saying, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger,'" she said. "Just hoping that he's never back on the street, because he's a very dangerous man."

Maldonado-Passage remained in custody without bond at the Santa Rosa County jail in Milton, Florida, on Monday morning. 

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