Brash, outspoken and born for the fray, Beth Chapman rode the golden mullet of her bounty-hunting spouse to reality TV fame but spent the last days
of her life inspiring others with her own starkly told struggle with cancer.
Chapman, 51, ended her struggle early Wednesday morning. Her death was first announced
in a tweet by her husband, Duane “Dog” Chapman.
“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. We all love you, Beth. See you on the other side,” he tweeted.
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. We all love you, Beth. See you on the other side.
A grieving Duane Chapman spoke to media and others
gathered in front of the couple’s Portlock residence Wednesday afternoon. Beth Chapman’s black Mercedes with the vanity-plate “MRSDOG” was parked in the driveway. A growing display of flowers and lei were arranged near her car and by the home’s fence line, where a black and white portrait of Beth Chapman was displayed on an easel.
“She’s trending on Twitter No. 1. We’ve got millions from all over the world — people wishing love and showing respect,” said Duane Chapman, who said the family was both celebrating his wife’s life, while mourning her death.
Duane Chapman said the
family knew for a few years that Beth Chapman was dying. Still, her death came “very unexpectedly fast” for them.
“All of her clothes are exactly where they were, her makeup and everything … we didn’t prepare,” Duane Chapman said.
Part of the reason is that Beth Chapman wasn’t ready to surrender.
“She wanted to live so badly, she fought so long,” Duane Chapman said. “She had faith. The last step when you are dying is to
accept it. She said to me the other day, ‘Honey, that last step, I ain’t taking it.’”
Duane Chapman said his wife’s last words came as he held her during one of the health attacks that preceded her death.
“All I could say was in
‘Jesus’ name,’ and hold her and she said, ‘Say it again, say it more,’” he said. “She came out of it a few more times and mouthed, ‘I love you,’ and ‘Are you all OK,’ but she never accepted (death).”
Chapman said he thinks of his wife as merely sleeping like the biblical Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead.
“I hope to God there is a God. And, if there is, I wanna to see my honey again. And that’s all we can do is hope,” he said.
Duane Chapman said his other hope is that someone will find a cure for cancer.
“The cancer — we got to find a cure. All we have now is some get lucky, but most pass away,” he said. “It’s a hard fight. She fought hard. My final words are Beth isn’t dead, she’s sleeping.”
While Duane Chapman talked, several members
of the crowd, including neighbor Pat Ferraris, murmured words of affirmation and praise.
“I think that these were really genuine folks who cared about their clients and family and lived passionately,” Ferraris said. “I stopped by today just to memorialize this moment. In life, all we have are moments and the power of these moments gives
us direction and truth. They both lived a very purposeful life.”
Lyssa Chapman, the couple’s daughter, thanked the Hawaii community for their well-wishes.
“It actually makes us feel, you know, warm and loved by our community to know our mother was loved,” Lyssa Chapman said.
Beth Chapman’s death, like much of the couple’s life, was carried out in the public arena. Duane Chapman even joked Wednesday that the pair had signed a contract giving the networks the right to follow them “everywhere, but the bathroom.”
Born Alice Elizabeth Smith in Denver, Beth Chapman was exposed to the limelight early as the daughter of professional baseball player Garry Smith of the former Kansas City Athletics. Like her future husband, she lived a tumultuous existence long before her life became fodder for reality TV. She had her first child, Dominic, at the age of 17. Her second,
Cecily, came during her marriage to Keith Barmore.
She first met Duane Chapman when the bounty hunter came to bail her out following a shoplifting incident in 1986. She would go on to become a licensed bondsman herself (the youngest in state history at the time) as she and Duane, who was 16 years her senior, circled each other socially and professionally for the better part of a decade before finally becoming a couple. The pair, who have two children together, were wed in 2006.
Duane Chapman was
already a prominent bounty hunter when he made international news by capturing Max Factor heir and accused rapist Andrew Luster in Mexico, a feat for which the Mexican government would later seek to extradite Chapman and his crew.
That same year, he landed a segment on the A&E program “Take this Job,” which eventually led to the development of the series “Dog the Bounty Hunter” for the same network.
Readily recognizable with her arcing blonde locks, prodigious bosom and tight black wardrobe, Beth Chapman was an ideal foil for the Dog, whose Road Warrior-
like appearance belies a soft-spoken nature. Together they, along with colleagues and relations, leveraged a narrative of waywardness and redemption, falls and rises, into a culturally defiant brand.
The Hawaii-based series ran for eight years, attracting upward of 3 million viewers per episode at its peak.
By the time the show wrapped up in 2012, Beth Chapman had distinguished herself as a lead-worthy figure in her own right, one who endeared herself to fans with her unabashed, often combative personality and fierce loyalty to her husband and family. Her elevated status was reflected in the title of the couple’s next TV venture “Dog and Beth: On the Hunt,” which ran on CMT from 2013 to 2015. Chapman served as executive producer for the series. She was also listed as executive producer for “Dog’s Most Wanted,” which is still in development, according to IMDB.
Controversy and misfortune followed the couple on screen and off, from media-fueled squabbles with family members to run-ins with law enforcement . Yet, their devotion to each other seemed never in question, particularly during Chapman’s battles with cancer.
“As most of you know, I’ve spent a lifetime facing tests and challenges I didn’t see coming and certainly never expected,” Chapman wrote to friends at the time. “I’ve been dealt my share of unexpected blows over the course of my almost 50 years but nothing as serious as the one I heard from my doctors two weeks ago when they uttered those dreaded three words, ‘You have cancer.’”
The ordeal was chronicled in a 2017 A&E special, “Dog
&Beth: The Fight of Their Lives.”
“I’m a fighter,” Beth Chapman told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in January. “I’m a strong fighter — big-time survivor — and I’m gonna fight this as vigorously as it’s fighting me,” she said at the time.
The couple, which had been splitting time between homes in Hawaii and Colorado, shut down its landmark Da Kine Bail Bonds office on Queen Emma Street in January due to the sale of the building, which was slated for demolition and redevelopment.
Duane Chapman said he brought Beth Chapman home to Hawaii when the cancer took a turn for the worst. The family hasn’t finalized funeral arrangements, but said that they planned
to hold memorial services in Colorado and Hawaii, where there would likely be a paddle-out in her honor.