Duane Chapman was born on 1st February, 1953 to Wesley Chapman, a Navy welder and boxer, and Barbara Chapman, a minister for the Assemblies of God. He was the eldest child among four. While his father was allegedly abusive, he credited his mother for helping him find the path to God. Duane was often bullied and beaten, which made him to drop his schooling.
At the age of 15, he joined a local motorcycle gang called The Devil's Disciples. The gang members committed many legal offenses. However, to his credit, he mostly refrained from crimes that conflicted with his mother's teachings. This shred of integrity earned him the name Dog.
By the time he was 20 years old, he was arrested 18 times for armed robbery. A drug deal gone bad in Texas in 1977, got him convicted for murder, and he was sentenced for 5 years of hard labor in prison.
According to Chapman, a glimpse of a church group meeting reminded him of his mother's teachings and helped in his decision to amend his ways. While in prison, he helped catch an escaping convict. He was a well-behaved inmate, and was out on parole after two years.
After coming out of prison, he found it difficult to get a job, and as per a judge's ruling he owed USD 200 in child support payments. This particular judge offered to make a payment to Duane, if he helped catch a fugitive. Duane helped catch this fugitive, which got him a few more similar jobs. This is what led him to become a full-time bounty hunter.
Career as a Bounty Hunter
Chapman started his business in his hometown, Denver, before moving to Hawaii with his family. He ran his business as a family enterprise. He included another bounty hunter called Tim Chapman, along with Alice Elizabeth Smith (presently married to Duane Chapman), various members of his family, and friends.
In 1980, he met Tony Robbins, a motivational speaker who was quite impressed by the efforts made by Duane towards changing his life for the better. Robbins mentioned him in his book Awake the Giant Within.
According to Chapman, he has made over 6,000 captures without firing a single bullet. Being an ex-con, he understood the difficulties that convicts face after getting out of prison. Therefore, he helped capture the felons, but made a serious effort to rehabilitate them.
In June 2003, Chapman captured the Max Factor heir named Andrew Luster, who was convicted in absentia by the American court, for drugging and raping several women and fleeing to Mexico. But Chapman and his team refused to handover Andrew Luster to the Mexican police.
So, the American Court charged them for breaking extradition laws, and declared them fugitives for leaving the country without obtaining permission from the presiding judge. This put Duane Chapman in the spotlight and got him his own TV Show. On November 5, 2007, US Magistrate Judge, Barry Kurren dismissed the extradition charges.
Dog the Bounty Hunter TV Show
Duane's show Dog the Bounty Hunter became the highest-rated TV show, but was not free from controversies. In March 2007, an audiotape containing a racially abusive conversation between his son, Tucker and himself about his son's African-American girlfriend was made public, forcing A&E to cancel the show.
Chapman issued a public apology for 'regrettable use of very inappropriate language' on November 1, 2007. A&E resumed airing the show from June 25, 2008, and it is presently in its 6th season. He has also written a book You Can Run, But You Can't Hide, where he has chronicled his journey from being a convict to a bounty hunter.
Duane married and divorced five times before re-marrying Alice Elizabeth Smith (Beth Chapman). He has 13 children, of which two are no more. One of his children, Zebediah died shortly after birth in1980, and another one named Barbara Katie was killed in a traffic accident at the age of 24 in 2006.
Duane Chapman's life has been a roller coaster ride, from being a school dropout to a convict who turned his life around as a bounty hunter. According to him, the urge to commit violent crimes still lurks, but he simply no longer feels the need to exercise it.