Dog the Bounty Hunter’s history of family tragedy: How he’s overcome past heartbreak

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Duane Chapman, aka Dog the Bounty Hunter, is mourning the death of his wife, Beth, after a years-long battle with cancer. 

Beth died at age 51 on Wednesday morning, Duane confirmed on Twitter. “It’s 5:32 in Hawaii, this is the time she would wake up to go hike Koko Head mountain,” he wrote. “Only today, she hiked the stairway to heaven. We all love you, Beth. See you on the other side.”

The reality star is no stranger to heartbreak and hardship, having faced tragic losses, complicated family strife and various accusations throughout his years in the public eye.

Here’s a look back at some of the turmoil the 66-year-old reality star has faced in his life.

Jail Time

Duane dropped out of school at age 13 and lived a rough life as a member of a motorcycle gang, with several arrests for armed robbery and other crimes. In 1976, when he was 23 years old, Duane was waiting in a car when a friend shot and killed a man during a drug deal gone wrong. Despite the fact that he claimed to be merely an accomplice to the crime, Duane was convicted of first-degree murder. “I should not have been there, that’s that,” he said of his involvement when the conviction later barred him from entering the U.K. 

While he served his time at the Texas State Penitentiary, Duane’s first wife, La Fonda Sue Honeycutt — the mother of his sons Duane Lee Chapman II and Leland Chapman — divorced him and married his best friend. He also later served time in a federal prison related to bounty-hunting charges in Mexico after tracking down Max Factor heir Andrew Luster, who was convicted of multiple sexual assaults.

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Family Strife

Duane has been married five times and is a father to 12 children. However, his relationship with some of his children has been strained at times. The reality star’s first child, Christopher Michael Hecht, was born after Duane’s teenage relationship with a woman named Debbie White. But Duane didn’t know of his son’s existence until after White died by suicide, and the father-son pair reconnected when Christopher was an adult.

The bounty hunter also lost another son, Zebediah, one of three children he had with his second wife, Anne M. Tengell. Zebediah died shortly after his birth in 1980.

In October 2007, family issues led to public controversy when tapes leaked of Duane having a phone conversation with his son, Tucker, in which he used the n-word in reference to Tucker’s girlfriend. The reality star issued a public apology, but on Nov. 2, AE announced they were pulling his show for the “foreseeable future.” About four months later, the network announced Dog the Bounty Hunter would return to production.

Duane also worked alongside two of his sons, Duane Lee and Leland, on the reality show. However, personal and professional tensions in the family caused his sons to walk off the show and quit in 2012. They have since reconciled. 

In 2011, Duane and Beth were awarded temporary custody of their 9-year-old grandson — the son of Duane’s daughter, Barbara — after alleged abuse by the boy’s father, Travis Mimms Sr. 

“I know Travis Sr. loves his son, and I know it’s very difficult to be a single parent at such a young age, but I love my grandson and only want what’s best for him,” Duane said in a written statement at the time. “During the last phone call I had with my daughter, Barbara, she said to me, ‘Please, Daddy, take care of [your grandson]. Don’t ever let anything happen to him.'”

“To hear the audiotape of my grandson being abused was torture. We all hope and pray that Travis Sr. will be able to raise his son with the love and respect he deserves, because it’s in everyone’s best interest for them to have a proper father-son relationship,” the statement continued.

 

Tragedy Strikes

On the night before his wedding to Beth in May 2006, Duane’s estranged daughter, Barbara, died in a car accident near her home in Fairbanks, Alaska. Barbara and a friend, who was driving, were reportedly killed when their stolen SUV went off the road, rolled, hit some trees and landed upside down.

Hawaii News Now reported at the time that Duane learned of his daughter’s death just before the wedding ceremony in Kona, Hawaii, the next day. He reportedly consulted with a minister and everyone agreed the wedding would go on as planned. They decided to break the bad news to wedding guests at the reception.

Publicist Mona Wood said the reality star was very emotional as he informed his guests of the tragedy, and many wedding guests were visibly upset by the shocking news.

 

Death Threats

In spring 2012, Duane and his family were the targets of multiple death threats via email, leading to an FBI investigation. The threats were graphic and included references to sexual assault and Duane’s time in jail.

“I’m going to murder you. I’m going to come to Hawaii and murder you and your family in cold blood,” read one message obtained by RadarOnline. “You are next on my list and are the bane of society. I will deliver you to God.”

The family released a statement at the time saying, “The Chapmans are taking these threats seriously and are very concerned about the safety of their family. Duane Chapman said that when the person responsible is found, he will prosecute to the full extent of the law for the threats made against his family. A referral of the case has been made to the FBI in Honolulu.”

 

Alleged Addiction 

In 2013, Lyssa Chapman — Duane’s daughter from his third marriage to Lyssa Rae Brittain — released a memoir, Walking on Eggshells, that detailed claims of her troubled childhood, alleging that her mother was an alcoholic and Duane was addicted to drugs.

“I [falsely] accused my father of raping me when I was 11,” she wrote in the book. “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 I got to my mother’s, although she drank, it was much more peaceful. I was in school, I had friends, I was willing to do anything to not go back.”

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Beth’s Cancer Battle

In 2017, Beth was diagnosed with stage 2 throat cancer, which was documented in the AE special, Dog Beth: Fight of Their Lives. She endured a 13-hour surgery to have a tumor excised, and the family shared that the cancer had been removed in November 2017.

However, in November 2018, Beth’s attorney confirmed to ET that her cancer had returned. She had another surgery that month to remove a mass from her throat, and began chemotherapy in December, but was hospitalized again in April. 

A rep for the Chapman family confirmed to ET over the weekend that Beth was admitted to Hawaii’s Queen’s Medical Center on Saturday, and placed in a medically-induced coma in “very grave condition.”

A source told ET that Beth was “heavily sedated” after being admitted to the hospital and that her mother had flown to Hawaii to be by her daughter’s side. Duane and the couple’s children were also by her side “around the clock” prior to her death, the source added.

 

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Inside Beth and Duane ‘Dog’ Chapman’s Complex Love Story and 13-Year Marriage

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Beth Chapman, ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ Star, Dead at 51

 

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