Obituary: Beth Chapman, bounty hunter who became a global TV star

Beth Chapman and husband 'Dog' in 2005 (Picture: Fernando Leon/Getty Images)
Beth Chapman and husband 'Dog' in 2005 (Picture: Fernando Leon/Getty Images)
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Beth Chapman, bounty hunter. Born: 29 October 1967 in Denver, Colorado, United States. Died: 26 June 2019 in Honolulu, Hawaii, aged 51.

Beth Chapman, who co-starred with her husband on American reality television series Dog the Bounty Hunter and later spoke out against bail reform measures as a leader of a national bail agents’ organisation, has died.

Chapman died early on Wednesday at Queen’s Medical Centre after an almost two-year battle with cancer, Mona Wood-Sword, a family spokeswoman, said. She was 51.

Chapman was diagnosed with throat cancer in September 2017 after getting a nagging cough checked out. A tumour was removed, and she was declared cancer-free. But in November 2018, she was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. “This is the time she would wake up to go hike Koko Head mountain,” her husband, Duane “Dog” Chapman, posted on Twitter early on Wednesday. “Only today, she hiked the stairway to heaven. We all love you, Beth. See you on the other side.”

Celebrities also took to Twitter to express their condolences. Jeanine Pirro, the host of Fox News’ Justice with Judge Jeanine, posted two photos of her with Beth Chapman and one with the couple on Twitter. Pirro added: “Rest in peace Beth Chapman, a good lady and a great American.”

Inside Edition special correspondent Rita Crosby tweeted, “No words to describe this huge loss of my heroic and dear frienD Beth Chapman. Prayers needed for Dog the Bounty Hunter and all of us who loved Beth so very much, and her indomitable spirit.”

On Friday, Chapman had difficulty breathing and passed out momentarily, Wood-Sword said. She was taken to a hospital, and doctors put her in a medically induced coma to spare her pain while treating her, the spokeswoman said.

Born Alice Elizabeth Smith in Denver, Chapman had lived in Honolulu since 1989. In 2006, she and Duane Chapman – the self-proclaimed world’s best bounty hunter – married during a sunset ceremony at a Hawaii resort after being together for 16 years.

“I’ve already been cuffed and shackled by Beth anyway,” he said at the time.

The wedding took place a day after the death of Duane Chapman’s 23-year-old daughter, Barbara Katy Chapman, who was killed in a car accident near her home in Fairbanks, Alaska, Wood-Sword recalled. The couple decided to go forward with the wedding to celebrate her life.

The wedding was featured in an episode of the Dog the Bounty Hunter – shown in the UK on Amazon Prime – which followed the duo’s exploits in apprehending people who have avoided warrants for their arrest.

The couple met when he posted her bond for a shoplifting arrest, she told actress and chat show host Rosie O’Donnell.

“He came walking out there, I said, Oh yes he will be mine”, Chapman said.

The couple had 12 children between them. They had 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, Wood-Sword said.

In 2007, Hawaii politicians honoured the couple for their work capturing criminals.

“It’s kind of extraordinary to be called a crimefighter,” she said at the time. “I’ll have to go home and get my Wonder Woman outfit.”

Duane Chapman gained fame after he nabbed serial rapist and Max Factor heir Andrew Luster in Mexico in 2003.

Dog the Bounty Hunter was cancelled in 2012. The show was pulled in 2007 following a racial outburst by Duane Chapman and then returned to the air in 2008.

He was heard in a taped phone conversation using a racial slur in reference to his son’s black girlfriend. He apologised and said he received counseling.

The couple later starred in Country Music Television’s Dog & Beth: On the Hunt.

WGN America is in production on Dog’s Most Wanted. A trailer for the show was released earlier this month.

Chapman was elected president of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States and opposed some bail reform measures in the United States. She opposed eliminating the cash bail system, saying it would put the public at risk. “People are not in jail because they are poor,” she said in 2017. “They’re in jail because they broke the law.”

She boasted of being the youngest person ever to receive a bail licence in Colorado at 29. That record was beat by her stepdaughter Lyssa Chapman, who became licensed at age 19, she said.

JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER