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Duane Chapman Biography

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Birth Name: Duane Chapman
Born: 02/02/1953
Birth Place: Denver, Colorado, USA

Chapman was born in Denver, CO on Feb. 1, 1953 the oldest of four children. His father, Wesley was a Navy welder and his mother, Barbara, was a missionary/minister for the Assemblies of God. While Chapman attributed his rough exterior image and personality to his allegedly abusive father, he later referred to his Cherokee Indian mother as his "best friend" and credited her with putting him on the path to God. One of only a few white children in a predominantly Mexican school, Chapman was beaten up frequently, leading him to drop out and get involved with the proverbial bad crowd. By age 15, Chapman had joined "The Devil's Disciples," a motorcycle gang that committed many serious crimes. Ironically, Chapman often abstained from certain acts that conflicted with the religious messages he received from his mother. This smidgeon of personal integrity earned him the nickname "Dog," both as the backward spelling of "God" as well as a homage for his loyalty to his gang of brothers. During his teens and early twenties, Chapman was reportedly arrested for armed robbery a stunning 18 times. But it was another crime committed in Texas that led to him doing his first serious prison time.

In 1977, a fellow gang member killed a drug dealer from whom Chapman was buying pot. Chapman later claimed that he and two others never got out of the car, let alone witnessed the crime. Unfortunately, there was no such thing as an accessory to a crime in Texas at that time, though the law changed in 1979. As a result, Chapman was sentenced to 5 years for murder. On the way to prison, he caught a glimpse of a church group meeting outside and decided right then that he would return to the path his mother had set him on years earlier. He was a well-behaved inmate and performed a brave act of intervention that later served him well as a bounty hunter - a prison guard was about to shoot an escaping convict, but Chapman intervened, catching the inmate instead and in essence saving his life.

When Chapman was paroled after two years for good behavior, he was confronted by a difficult issue that most ex-cons face upon release - he was unable to get a job. At the same time, a judge ruled that he owed $200 in child support payments. Thankfully, this particular judge had heard about Chapman's "capture" of the prison inmate and offered to pay him to catch a fugitive. He agreed and was successful. This led to a few more such jobs, until the judge recommended that Chapman become a full-time bounty hunter.

In the early 1980s, Chapman met motivational speaker Tony Robbins through a friend in the FBI. Robbins was impressed in meeting the "convict-gone-good" who had not only realized the errors of his ways, but also took criminals off the streets. Robbins brought the bounty hunter on speaking engagements and also profiled him in his book Awake the Giant Within. For the next two decades, Chapman slowly grew his Hawaii-based business - by his own reckoning, Chapman made over 6,000 captures without firing a single bullet. Still, he was honest enough to admit that the urge to commit violent crimes still lurked beneath the surface; he simply no longer acted on those urges. Chapman wasn't just capturing fugitives; he saw his work as a means of rehabilitating felons back into a straight life, with his message often bringing rooms of hardened crooks to tears.

This reputation - coupled with his exposure from Robbins - brought him to Hollywood's attention in the late 1990s. Just as Chapman was about to hit the big time, he suffered a crippling loss when his beloved mother died. Depressed, he was unable to work for months. Finally, with the help of a pep talk from actor Boris Krutonog, Chapman decided to "go Hollywood" in order to continue spread his rehabilitative message to people everywhere.

Before inking a deal, Chapman made his most highly publicized and controversial arrest in June 2003 when he captured Max Factor heir Andrew Luster, who had been convicted in absentia of drugging and raping several women after fleeing to Mexico. After Chapman and his team crossed the border and made the arrest, Mexican authorities demanded that they transfer Luster over to the Mexican police. When Chapman and company refused, they were charged by Mexico for breaking extradition laws. They were officially declared "fugitives" by a spokesman for the Mexican Government after they left the country without obtaining permission from the presiding judge to leave. The charges, however, were eventually dropped. Ultimately, Chapman never received the reward for Luster's capture, because the FBI claimed to have been mere hours behind him. But the attention given the case put Chapman back in the spotlight.

The self-proclaimed "world's greatest bounty hunter" began receiving reality TV show offers from a number of networks. In the end, he went with A&E, and his show, "Dog the Bounty Hunter" became the cable network's highest rated show to date. Joining Chapman in his quest for human bounty were his common law wife Beth Smith; two of his 12 children, sons Leland and Duane Lee; as well as long-time partner Tim Chapman (no relation). Even a nephew, Justin, appeared during the first season. Chapman's newfound popularity led to a guest appearance as himself on "George Lopez" (ABC, 2002-07). Chapman also worked on the book, You Can Run, But You Can't Hide and informed the world that, if given permission from the United States government, he would attempt to collect a bounty on terrorist Osama Bin Laden.

But his fame was fleeting at best - though in August 2007 charges of violating Mexico's extradition laws were invalidated, Chapman suffered public indignation after an audio tape surfaced of him using racist language in reference to his son Tucker's African-American girlfriend - a tape, it was revealed, was leaked by his son. Though he later issued a public apology for his "regrettable use of very inappropriate language," Chapman went through the embarrassment of having his show removed from the schedule by A&E "for the foreseeable future." Once again, Chapman had been set adrift.