The Untold Truth Of Dog The Bounty Hunter

The following article contains allegations and mention of child abuse, suicide, sexual assault, and addiction.

Duane Chapman became an A&E staple when his television show, "Dog the Bounty Hunter," launched in 2004, documenting the ins and outs of his eccentric career catching some of the world's most wanted fugitives in the Hawaiian islands. His sun-bleached mullet, shades, and gold chains were hard to miss, and he gained a serious fanbase among viewers who saw a gentle giant beneath his biker outfits and strong-arm personality. He captured plenty of criminals in his nearly decade-long tenure on the network, earning himself a multi-million dollar fortune and a solid reputation for hunting bad guys.

Becoming a figure in pop culture was a dream of Chapman's, who told The New York Times in 2020, "I need the attention. I wake up every day and say, 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the baddest bounty hunter of them all?'"

Like many television personalities, there's a lot more beneath the surface than what viewers see onscreen regarding Dog the Bounty Hunter. From his dangerous career path to his tumultuous personal life and relationships, Chapman's real-life — often untold — story is just as dramatic as his former reality television show.

Dog the Bounty Hunter's childhood was anything but picture perfect

With a career built on chasing down criminals, it's not hard to believe that Duane Chapman didn't have a picture-perfect childhood. While he enjoys the fruits of his labor today, growing up, Chapman lived a blue-collar life.

He was born in Denver, Colorado to a father who worked as a navy welder turned bail bondsman, and a mother who spent her Sundays teaching bible school. Chapman was one of four children, with two sisters, Jolene and Paula, and a younger brother, Mike, rounding out what he dubbed a "pretty normal" upbringing in his 2007 book, "You Can Run But You Can't Hide" (via CTV News). But what Chapman thought of as normal then has evolved — and he recognizes that he endured abuse at the hands of his father. "As a young boy, I never knew that other kids didn't get hit by their dads," he wrote in his memoir. "I can't recall any long stretch of time in my young life when my dad didn't hit me."

His father, whose nickname was "Flash" due to his boxing skills, taught his son how to box at a young age to build character. "I wasn't allowed to show any emotion after he threw a punch," Chapman recalled. "A jab to the ribs, a left hook to the body–whatever came at me, I was expected to take it like a man. But I wasn't a man. I was a young boy looking for love and approval from my father."

Duane 'Dog' Chapman has done time in the slammer

Dog the Bounty Hunter may have built a career on chasing criminals, but decades ago, he was the one running from the law. Duane Chapman's youth was spent testing the limits, as he admitted as much in his interview with The Denver Post. "I was always running from the cops and they were always arresting me," he remembered, adding, "I spent a lot of time with the cops back then."

In 1976, Chapman became an accomplice to murder during a drug deal gone bad when a member of his entourage shot and killed a man named Jerry Oliver. Chapman was waiting in the car during the altercation, but he was later arrested and held partly responsible for the murder under Texas law. After being found guilty of first-degree murder, the television personality was sentenced to five years in the Texas State Penitentiary, of which he served 18 months.

Dog the Bounty Hunter was arrested yet again in 2003 while in pursuit of Max Factor heir Andrew Luster in Mexico. Luster had evaded arrest by jetting off to Puerto Vallarta after being charged with multiple sexual assault cases, but not before being tracked down by Chapman. The television star was held up at the United States and Mexico border, however, and detained by police since bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico. Dog the Bounty Hunter left the Mexican prison after paying the bail for him and his television crew, and Luster was later convicted and sentenced.

Behind bars, he found his calling as a bounty hunter

Landing himself in jail wasn't an ideal situation for Duane Chapman, but it did give him a new purpose in life. The A&E star admitted that while serving time behind bars, he became inspired to hunt down criminals in a surprising full-circle realization.

"While I was in prison, I became the warden's barber, so that means all the guards were my friends," he told Fox News. "One guy went to break and run one day, an inmate, and I jumped him and just — the guard were going to shoot him in the back." Chapman intervened, however, saving the man's life. "And as the guard walked up when I was on top of the inmate apprehending him, and he threw down the handcuffs and said, 'Hook him up, bounty hunter,'" he explained. 

The incident earned him the nickname "bounty hunter" by prison personnel and paved the way for his future career. Once he got out of prison early, he was hit with a staggering amount of child support bills and was in need of quick cash. The judge overseeing his case suggested that Chapman take up bounty hunting as a serious career after hearing about his sterling reputation behind bars and ability to react to tense situations. Thus, Dog the Bounty Hunter was born, former prisoner-turned-fugitive-hunter. 

Chapman claimed to have captured at least 10,000 fugitives

Dog the Bounty Hunter gained worldwide recognition after tracking down fugitive Andrew Luster in Mexico in 2003. After successfully nailing down the location of the convicted perpetrator, Duane Chapman became a household name with the 2004 launch of "Dog the Bounty Hunter" on A&E. For nearly a decade, fans watched Chapman track down some devious criminals up until the show was canceled following its eighth season in 2012.

As he stated in his interview with The New York Times, the television personality claims to have been responsible for apprehending at least 10,000 fugitives in his day. Most of those hunts went down on "Dog the Bounty Hunter," but after that chapter closed, Chapman was the star of his spinoff show, "Dog and Beth: On the Hunt" on the CMT network alongside his late wife, Beth. He also went on to executive produce "Dog's Most Wanted," which aired on WGN America in 2019. 

Chapman is responsible for finding some of the nation's most-wanted criminals in his lengthy career. In addition to his successful quest for Andrew Luster's whereabouts, the reality television star hunted down Leonard Trujillo Jr. on "Dog's Most Wanted." Trujillo was at the top of the list of fugitives at large in 2019, faced with charges of armed robbery, bank robbery, and assault on a police officer. Chapman and his entourage managed to track down the thief in Colorado, leading to the arrests of four more people in connection with Trujillo's crimes.

Chapman has fathered 13 children with five different wives

Over the last four decades, Dog the Bounty Hunter has fathered 13 children from six different women. His first child, Christopher Michael Hecht, was born in 1972 while he was dating his then-girlfriend Debbie White. After splitting with White, Duane Chapman married his first wife, La Fonda Sue Darnall, with whom he welcomed his son Duane Lee II in 1973, and his third son Leland Blane in 1976.

Chapman ultimately split with Darnall in 1977, and he wed Ann Tegnell in 1979. The pair had a son named Zebediah together in 1980, but he tragically died just one month after his birth. Tegnell gave birth to their second son together, Wesly, the same year, and another son, James Robert, in 1982. The couple split up in 1982, and Chapman married his third wife, Lyssa Rae Brittain, the same year.

Brittain and Dog welcomed Barbara Katy in 1982, but she tragically died in 2006 in a car accident when she was just 23. They welcomed two more children together, a son named Tucker Dee in 1983, and a daughter Lyssa Rae in 1987. Dog split from Brittain in 1991 and eventually met his longtime partner, Beth, whom he married in 2006. The two share three children, Bonnie Joanne, who was born in 1998, Garry, who was born in 2001, and Cecily Barmore, Beth's child from a previous relationship that Dog later adopted. Dog later discovered he had a 13th child in 2023, a son named Jon from an earlier relationship.

He married Beth Chapman in the early 2000s

Duane Chapman's longest relationship was with his fifth wife, Beth Chapman, who became a beloved figure on "Dog the Bounty Hunter." The couple met in 1988 when Beth was 19 years old and in trouble with the law. She was arrested for shoplifting a lemon after taking a call from her boss and not paying attention as she left the grocery store. Police also snagged her for an arrest warrant over several unpaid parking tickets as well as having an unlicensed gun on her. Beth's father contacted Duane, who was 35 at the time, to bail her out. Once Beth met Dog to file paperwork, she was instantly smitten.

"He came walking out there, and I said, 'Oh yes, he will be mine.' Let the stalking begin," she joked to Rose O'Donnell in a 2011 interview (via Country Living). Dog was married at the time, but Beth was none the wiser. She landed herself in jail for six months after taking a car from a car dealership to try and track Dog down. By the time she got out of jail, he was dating one of his future wives.

Beth eventually wed Dog's friend, Keith Barmore, but she continued seeing the television star on the side. "I was the other woman through three wives. Two wives, and one really good girlfriend," she told O'Donnell. The two were brought even closer when she supported him following his mother's death in 1995 and his subsequent drug addiction, ultimately tying the knot in 2006.

His wife's death left him with suicidal thoughts

In 2019, Beth Chapman died at 51 years old after being diagnosed with throat, and later lung, cancer. "It's 5:32 in Hawaii, this is the time she would wake up to go hike Koko Head mountain. Only today, she hiked the stairway to heaven," Duane Chapman tweeted at the time, confirming the news of his wife's death. "We all love you, Beth. See you on the other side."

Beth's passing was a huge blow to Dog, who admitted to experiencing suicidal thoughts in the months that followed. "I couldn't stop crying," he revealed in an interview with Dr. Oz (per E! News). "I wasn't going to commit suicide with a gun or something. I was going to take a lot of pills because Beth left all of her big pills there. So I just think one drink of water."

Chapman eventually pulled himself out of that dark place and has since made plans to memorialize his late wife. In his 2020 interview with The New York Times, the television star said he plans to write another book, this one honoring Beth. Dog also revealed that he has hopes of becoming a sheriff if he's able to get a pardon from Texas after his 1976 murder conviction. The new profession could also be the subject of a new series. "I think it'd be a hit," Dog divulged.

He remarried to his sixth wife, Francie Frane

Two years after his wife's death, Duane Chapman found love again with Francie Frane. The two met after Chapman called the Colorado rancher attempting to hire her husband, Bob, to do some work on his home. Frane informed him that her husband had died months before Beth had, and the two bonded over their mutual grief. Not long after, the couple started seeing each other.

Chapman had previously dated Beth's former longtime assistant Moon Angell, but it sparked a fight with his daughter, Lyssa, who disapproved of the relationship. After lots of public backlash over Beth's former friend getting close to Dog, the pair's short-lived romance fizzled out. 

Chapman eventually proposed to Frane in May 2020, less than a year after Beth's passing. "I scream & Cry Beth where are you why did you leave me," Chapman wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of Frane. "Then I look up & see you Francie & the pain turns to a smile I LOVE YOU WOMAN !!" The couple got married in Colorado Springs, Colorado in an intimate September 2021 ceremony with 100 people.

Chapman has a tumultuous relationship with his daughters

Duane Chapman hasn't always been the father of the year, at least according to his daughter, Lyssa Chapman. In her book, "Walking on Eggshells," Lyssa recounted a childhood growing up with a father addicted to crack and an alcoholic mother. In an interview with Fox News in 2013, she admitted, "I [falsely] accused my father of raping me when I was 11," adding, "I had been molested by a friend of his. It was a horrible life that I never wanted to go back to, living with him and Beth and the fighting and the drugs." 

When Chapman got romantically involved with his late wife's former friend, Moon Angell, shortly after her death, Lyssa took to X, formerly Twitter (via E! News), to express her disapproval. "If someone who met your family by dating your brother, tried to date your father after your step-mom died, what would you do?" she wrote in 2020. Angell and Dog's romance has since fizzled, and Lyssa is back on good terms with her father. "A LEGEND WAS BORN TODAY," she wrote on Instagram in 2024. "Happy Birthday Dad !!! We LOVE you !!"

Dog's daughters, Bonnie and Cecily, were also on the outs with her father after they claimed they weren't invited to his and Francie Frane's 2021 nuptials. Bonnie posted to Facebook, claiming Frane texted her that she wasn't invited due to her support of the Black Lives Matter movement. "I'm sorry, but I can't defend my Dad's racism," she wrote in her post.

He had a serious health scare

Duane Chapman suffered more than just heartbreak following Beth Chapman's death in 2019. Amidst his grief, the television personality landed himself in the hospital after enduring a pulmonary embolism just three months after her death. According to his interview with The New York Times, Dog believed that his testosterone supplements thickened his blood and led to the . While he was supposed to stay in the hospital, he ended up leaving early after an altercation with an employee. "[I pushed] an orderly up against a wall because he wouldn't let me leave," he shared. "They couldn't stop me."

Soon after his hospital stay, Dr. Oz had Chapman on his show for an intervention. "You're a ticking time bomb. You aren't going to be here with the heart the way it is right now," Dr. Oz told him in the interview, imploring him to start taking his health more seriously. 

Chapman started to make positive changes following the intervention, chewing ice cubes to lose weight and cutting back on his cigarette smoking. At the beginning of 2020, he was down to 187 pounds and two packs of cigarettes a day, using disposable filters to cut back on the negative side effects of nicotine. Despite some of his steps in the right direction, the bounty hunter has refused to cut back on tanning salons and isn't a fan of using sunscreen. As the saying goes — you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

He spent his multi-million dollar fortune and is now 'broke'

Dog the Bounty Hunter amassed a multi-million dollar fortune while chasing fugitives and starring on his popular television show. But years after his reality television days ended, the Colorado native's bank account has been bleak. In his 2020 interview with The New York Times, Duane Chapman revealed that he was on the hunt for more lucrative bond jobs after he spent his fortune caring for his late wife.

"I'm broke," he revealed, admitting that paying for hospital bills during her battle with cancer took a serious toll. Chapman revealed he was planning to take on a huge bond job after he got a call from his partner David Robinson. "Biggest bond I've ever written," he said, adding that he would have to pay $1.5 million if he was unable to apprehend the fugitive, who evaded a potential drug conviction by escaping to California. 

Despite having his health scare, Chapman was ready to jump back into his bounty-hunting career. "I can go," Dog told Robinson. "I'm three hours away, David. Just got a blood clot, that's all."

If you or anyone you know may be the victim of child abuse, is struggling or in crisis, has been the victim of sexual assault, or needs help with addiction issues, contact the relevant resources below: