CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Carole Baskin, featured in the Netflix reality show “Tiger King,” once lived in West Virginia.
According to Baskin’s video diary series, she lived in Kanawha County in the early 1970s. Her family moved there from Florida after Gov. Arch Moore hired her dad as a private pilot.
Baskin said she lived in Slacks Trailer Park on Cranbrook Drive in Charleston in 1970. She attended Ruffner Elementary School that year, according to her school days album.
By 1972, Baskin moved to Larwood Road in Mink Shoals (about 5 miles from Downtown Charleston). Her school days album stated she was 10 years old and a fifth grader at Shoals Elementary School. The album also confirmed Baskin partially attended sixth grade there.
Baskin said her passion for rehabbing and releasing animals began in Mink Shoals when her dog would frequently “drag home” wildlife. She shared other West Virginia memories of riding the bus, attending church, going trick-or-treating, and making friends.
Baskin eventually left West Virginia and attended Florida College Academy in Temple Terrace. She attended the academy from the sixth grade in 1973 to the ninth grade in 1976, according to her school days album.
By October 1976, Baskin returned to West Virginia and dated two guys while she lived in Sissonville near Lonesome Road and Ridgeview Drive. Baskin said the guys’ names were Ricky and Randy. Although, she was not completely certain about Randy’s name, who she instead nicknamed “the good boy” in comparison to Ricky.
Baskin recalled how “the good boy” drove her around in a flashy Pontiac Firebird through downtown Charleston. In comparison, Baskin said Ricky was the “ultimate bad boy” and a “James Dean incarnate” who was a snowplow driver with substance abuse problems.
According to Baskin, Ricky called her one night saying he purposely overdosed and wanted to tell her goodbye. Baskin said she searched through the nighttime darkness for Ricky and eventually found him. She said she screamed for his parents so they could take him to the hospital.
“I wonder if he’s still alive today,” Baskin said about Ricky in her diary series.
Baskin said that around March 1977, she and her mother got into a bad argument while the two were in Florida. Baskin’s mother apparently told her she never wanted to see her again. Thinking her mother truly meant this, a 16-year-old Baskin married Jim Jones and ran away with him back to Sissonville, West Virginia.
Baskin said she and Jones lived in a small, unheated and unairconditioned garage — with a toilet, sink and bathtub, but no water to run them. She alleged Jones often got violent, beating her multiple times and knocking “huge, gaping” holes through the garage’s concrete walls.
“Jim Jones was a six-foot-four, two-hundred-and-fifty-pound mutant, drug addict who routinely beat me within an inch of my life,” Baskin said. “No matter how hard I worked, it was never enough to support his habits. Sometimes I would be out of work for weeks because I couldn’t be serving food with blackened, swollen eyes and bloodied lips.”
According to Baskin, she worked at various Charleston restaurants such as The Cabaret, Athens by Night and other establishments. One night after work in 1977, Baskin attempted suicide by jumping off a bridge into the Kanawha River. Baskin said she resurfaced and heard a drunk, homeless man yelling “Don’t worry, I’ll help you!” before he jumped in.
“Being in considerably worse condition than me, and drunk to boot, this rescue effort resulted in me dragging him back to shore,” Baskin said. “But I was touched, nonetheless. His selflessness in face of what little he had to give showed me that no matter how bad things are, you can help someone else. You can make a difference if you just never give up.”
At one point, Jones and Baskin took in a boarder to help pay the rent for their Sissonville residence.
She remembered a time when she was too sick to go buy cigarettes and asked her roommate if she could borrow one. Baskin said the roommate gave her the pack, and she picked the “ratty looking one” because she did not want to take one of his “good ones.” She unknowingly picked a weed joint rather than a tobacco cigarette. Baskin said the roommate got quite the laugh when she told him the tissues on the floor started “transforming into dinosaurs.”
Baskin was fond of her friendship with that roommate. She said he frequently told her she needed to leave Jones before he killed her.
“I think he gave me the strength to do what I did next,” Baskin recalled about her roommate-turned-friend.
In Baskin’s video diary, she does not explicitly say how she and Jim separated. However, she did recall a time when their marriage took a significant turn.
While the couple visited Florida in 1977, Baskin was seriously hurt in a car crash after Jones allegedly drunkenly tried to grab the wheel from her. Baskin was apparently too scared to call her family for help and spent “an eternity” unable to walk while staying with Jones’ parents. The Joneses allegedly helped hide Baskin because they did not want to face their son’s actions nor did they want the army to discover he was AWOL.
Baskin said her grandfather eventually somehow found her and took her to a chiropractor so she could walk again. Baskin’s dad gave her a Mazda station wagon, and she drove with Jones back to West Virginia.
By this time, West Virginia Gov. Jay Rockefeller was in office and sold all the state’s planes to be replaced with helicopters. According to Baskin, none of the governor’s pilots — including her father — knew how to fly helicopters, and they could no longer fulfill the position. Rockefeller’s bold decision prompted her to apply to the West Virginia Office of Economic and Community Development.
“I decided to go to work for Rockefeller as a way to bring him down politically for what cost my family their livelihood,” Baskin said.
Since Baskin was only 16, her parents had to sign a work permit for her. A young Baskin moved through office ranks quickly and was hired as the secretary for the governor’s secretary. She said her plan for revenge had lessened by then, and instead, she ended up gaining some funny memories at the job.
Baskin’s job was to research people the governor was going to meet with and create a portfolio including the person’s information and photo. She said she once had to create a portfolio for Sen. Robert Byrd, but no one could give her a photo of him. Apparently, everyone told her that Byrd looked like Robert Redford, so she put a photo of the actor in the senator’s portfolio. Baskin recalled that Gov. Rockefeller was “bellowing from behind his desk” for her to come in and explain what happened.
“We got a pretty good laugh out of it when I explained,” Baskin said. “And later, 40 years later, I was able to share that story with Senator Byrd.”
As mentioned before, Baskin does not say exactly how she and Jones separated once they returned to West Virginia. As for her video diary series, the last West Virginia entry was about her suicide attempt in December 1977. By Baskin’s next diary update in April 1979, she was married to another man while at her parents’ home in Tampa, Florida.
In March 2020, Baskin was featured in the Netflix reality series “Tiger King.”
To watch Baskin’s full video diary series, visit her YouTube channel.