Duane Chapman has made a good living from catching criminals and fugitives, and remains one of the most recognizable reality TV stars. Indeed, the notorious star of Dog the Bounty Hunter is a man whose reputation proceeds him. Nevertheless, public persona aside, the 65-year-old is a devoted family man to his wife, Beth, 50, and their two children, Bonnie and Garry. Sadly, in September 2017, the Chapmans revealed some life-altering news – Beth had been diagnosed with throat cancer. This heartbreaking reality proved to be the couple’s biggest ever obstacle, and they decided to tackle it together on screen.
Want to catch a criminal? Few are as qualified for the job as Dog the Bounty Hunter. The reality star claims to have rounded up a whopping 6,000 fugitives during decades of tracking down transgressors. Incredibly, however, despite such excitement and some amazing crime stories, Dog’s personal life is even more interesting.
Born Duane Lee Chapman in 1953, this infamous bounty hunter rose up from humble beginnings in Denver, Colorado. His mother was a Pentecostal pastor, while his father worked in naval construction. Despite a seemingly uneventful childhood, Chapman’s life would do a complete 180 during his teenage years…
And then, after several arrests for robberies and similar felonies, Chapman was complicit in the worst crime of all. It happened after Dog had moved to the city of Pampa in Texas. In 1976 Chapman was waiting in a car while a friend went into a man called Jerry Oliver’s house to buy marijuana. The deal went tragically wrong, however, and a scuffle ensued which ended with Oliver being shot dead.
As a result, at the age of 23, Chapman was sentenced to five years in prison under Texan law for first-degree murder. After serving 18 months behind bars, during which time he reaffirmed his relationship with God, Dog was released. He vowed that from then on he would help right the wrongs in society. In the process, Chapman thought that this would allow him to move on from his own past sins.
Subsequently he became a bounty hunter and bail bondsman. Since then, Chapman has gone on to do many selfless deeds for the wider community. Thanks to some high-profile criminal captures, such as murderer William Scatarie, and the sex criminals Andrew Luster and Quinton Wortham, Chapman gained a reputation as a white knight. This led to TV appearances, and his very own show, Dog the Bounty Hunter, in 2004
Somehow, along the way, Chapman found the time to marry on five separate occasions. First came La Fonda Sue Honeycutt in 1972, followed by wife number two Anne M. Tegnell in 1979. Three years later, Lyssa Rae Brittain said, “I do,” as did Tawny Marie in 1992. Dog tied the knot with the current Mrs. Chapman – Beth – in 2006. Phew! As a result, the reality TV star has 12 children who call him dad.
Beth and Dog actually first met each other way back in 1986. It took two decades until the pair heard the sound of wedding bells. After their initial meeting, the couple were each in and out of various relationships and marriages, but always seemed to find their way back to each other.
Chapman recalled the moment he decided to go down on one knee in his 2010 autobiography, Where Mercy Is Shown, Mercy Is Given. “Our youngest children had begun to ask us why we weren’t married,” he wrote. “And Beth was being referred to as my ‘life partner’ or ‘sidekick.’ Those descriptions weren’t fair to her, either. In my heart, I always knew Beth would be my forever wife. It was time to make it official.”
Sadly, matrimony came hand in hand with misfortune for the couple. Just one day before the ceremony, Chapman’s 23-year-old daughter, Barbara, died in a car crash. Then, in 2012, the A&E Network cancelled Dog the Bounty Hunter after eight seasons. This must have come as a blow to the Chapmans, but far worse was to come five years later.
There was very little that could have prepared them for the terrible news they received in 2017. In early September that year, it was revealed that Beth had been diagnosed with throat cancer. Reportedly, she had written to friends, saying, “I will fight every step of the way. My husband and children are counting on me to be there for years to come.”
Later that same month, Beth underwent a 12-hour procedure to remove a tumor the size of a plum from her neck. Now all that she and the Chapman family could do was wait and see if the operation had been successful in arresting the aggressive disease. Then in November 2017 the news finally came in about her condition…
All was disclosed in a new two-hour reality TV special, Dog and Beth: Fight of Their Lives, with the A&E Network back in the frame. The cameras followed the Chapman family as they dealt with all aspects of Beth’s illness. The patient was shown recovering from her surgery and waiting for word from her pathologist. And then Dog was shown taking a very important phone call.
After he had finished his conversation, Chapman had news for the family. “Hello, attention. No cancer,” he excitedly announced. He went on to tell the cameras, “There is a God. This could be a miracle. This could be a healing. [The doctor] said if I wasn’t such a good husband it wouldn’t have worked out that great. Oh, I can breathe. Beth Chapman, you did it.”
It marked the end of a long and turbulent road for the twosome – one which understandably affected the family as a whole. During the special, Beth let her emotions pour out regarding the shocking news that she had stage-two cancer of the throat.
“I think you go through so many emotional things… when you hear the word cancer,” she said, adding, “You just don’t relate it to yourself.” Clearly, it was not something to be taken lightly – especially considering the fact that doctors had given her a 50/50 chance of beating the life-threatening disease.
Dog gushed about his wife’s resilience and strength of character. “There’s my little girl doing something that I could never do. I couldn’t do this, okay?” he told the cameras. “Tough woman right there – physically, emotionally and spiritually. That cancer picked on the wrong female.” And judging by the happy outcome, the TV star was right.
So there proved to be light at the end of Dog and Beth’s tunnel. Despite their heartbreaking journey through darkness, the soul mates rekindled their relationship with God. This is something that stretches all the way back to Chapman’s religious upbringing, courtesy of his minister mother. There were certainly prayers aplenty when the shadow of cancer was hanging over the couple.
Whether it was divine intervention or not, the bottom line is that the Chapman family can get their lives back to normal again. In December 2017, Beth shared images on Instagram of her and her husband in front of their Christmas tree. They looked happy to be able to put a stressful and worrisome year behind them.
The brave blonde proved how strong she really was, and fans were quick to show their admiration for her fortitude through such uncertain times. One fan remarked on Instagram, “New Year brings new beginnings, I hope you carry on in remission Beth,” while another jokingly commented, “DOG LOOKS ROUGH. You look great Beth!”
Before the good news about Beth’s health landed, Chapman made a heartwarming declaration to People magazine. Speaking in early November, 2017, he said, “When we made a pledge many years ago, I said I’d love her in sickness and in health until death do us part. And that truth has really, really come alive in my mind… And thank God it’s not till death do us part at this point.” Hopefully there will be many happy years ahead for the couple before they reach that stage.