Dog the Bounty Hunter says Merced is a ‘place of heaven.’ He’s moving business here

A couple closely tied to the popular television shows featuring ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ has moved their bail and surety bond insurance company to Merced with the blessing of the famed bail bondsmen with the cult following.

In an interview with the Sun-Star, Dog the Bounty Hunter, whose real name is Duane Chapman, described Merced as a “place of heaven.”

But Eighth Amendment Bail Bonds isn’t so focused on helping defendants post bail, said co-owner Rainy Robinson, a close friend and castmate of Chapman.

Instead, Rainy and husband David Robinson, a skilled tracker, focus on providing the emotional support and knowledge to help any defendant through the process of being released on bail, using the experience from Chapman’s crew on his televised bounty hunting adventures.

“At the end of the day, these are people strapped with payments and obligations,” Rainy said. “We encourage people to wait it out. Oftentimes, within 72 hours, a judge releases on O/R or the charges are dropped.”

The couple operates the bail bond business so they can legally bounty hunt with Chapman’s family in California. They make their money through other businesses. So that allows them to focus their efforts on helping defendants travel through the bail process instead of taking their money or assets.

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Rainy Robinson, a close family friend and business associate of Dog the Bounty Hunter, said she moved her family and businesses to Merced because she loves the family and community-centric personality of the city. Robinson is pictured in this photo in front of her business, Jane Bond Surety and Insurance, at 1744 G St. in Merced. Vikaas Shanker vshanker@mercedsunstar.com

Rainy operates a surety bond company, Jane Bond Surety and Insurance, at the same location as the bail bond company at 1744 G St. The business is one-of-a-kind in Merced County, Rainy said, because it focuses exclusively on surety bonds, which are bonds that act as insurance in contracts.

Also, separate from their enterprises, the new Merced residents are bringing Dog the Bounty Hunter’s brand merchandise to the city. The packaging operations of the brand’s merchandise will move from a Denver store to Merced, Rainy said.

The packaging operations will likely result in one or two jobs created, Rainy said. They hope to hire individuals with criminal histories who are struggling to get work.

Brand sales will continue online, she said.

Connection to Dog the Bounty Hunter

The original show, titled “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” focused on bail bondsman Chapman chasing down people who violate the terms of their bail and attempting to reform them through compassion and faith.

The show featured Chapman, popularly known as “Dog,” his family and his tough love mentality. Chapman, himself, served 18 months in prison after being convicted of homicide. The show, which aired between 2004 and 2012, features the capture of violators with the goal of reformation, a process Chapman said he went through.

The show was a hit, peaking with more than 3 million viewers of its 200th episode in 2006, according to Hollywood Reporter.

Chapman also faced controversy.

A&E briefly suspended the show in 2007 after video surfaced of Chapman using the n-word constantly in a conversation with his son. Chapman apologized and acknowledged he was wrong after meeting with several leaders of the black community and learning the context of the word, according to a CNN story.

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Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman

The Robinsons met and became best friends with Chapman and his late wife, Beth, Rainy said.

They were integral cast members in the CMT Dog the Bounty Hunter spinoff series called “Dog & Beth On The Hunt,” which aired between 2013 and 2015. They also will be featured in the upcoming WGN America series, “Dog’s Most Wanted,” set to premiere Sept. 4.

“We are chasing people and it’s crazy,” Rainy said.

Chapman, in a phone call with the Sun-Star, said the Robinsons were very close to the family and helped him run the Dog the Bounty Hunter brand’s enterprises after his wife died from cancer on June 26.

Moving to Merced

The Robinsons grew tired of living in Antioch, near the Bay Area, and were set to move to Washington state in July last year when they took a wrong turn on Highway 99 and ended up in Merced.

“I knew the moment I drove through here it was home,” Rainy said. “It’s so peaceful, so genuine. ... We absolutely love it here.”

Since she started living in Merced, Rainy said she experienced and valued the character of its residents.

“I love how non-showy everybody is,” she said. “In the Bay Area it’s different. It’s big hat, no cattle. Over here, people really don’t care if you drive a nice car. They care about family and a clean, healthy life.”

Big changes started at Dog Corp enterprises as Beth Chapman’s nearly two-year fight against cancer took a turn for the worse. She was hospitalized on June 22 and died days later.

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Beth Chapman.

“We were redesigning everything before Beth went,” Chapman told the Merced Sun-Star. “I told Rainy we need to find a place low on crime, has a good community. When she found this place, she found a place of heaven.”

The Chapmans and Robinsons started closing down brick and mortar locations and consolidating it all into one store in Denver, Rainy said. But on July 30, someone broke into the Denver store, stealing merchandise and mementos belonging to Beth Chapman.

“It was a nightmare,” said Rainy, who Beth Chapman often regarded as her “right hand.” The decision was made and a 10-year deal was struck to move merchandising operations from Denver to Merced.

The couple usually spends six months filming and the other half-year focusing on their businesses, Rainy said.

“The reality is there’s no traffic (in Merced), people are nice and friendly to each other,” she said. “The police department is outstanding. They’re super super sweet to work with, and they are really connected with the community.”

Dog felt Merced also could use the fame of his brand.

“We appreciate there’s some good, safe places in America,” Dog said. “It usually starts with churches and cops.”

This story has been corrected to note Chapman’s use of the n-word happened in a conversation with his son, not at a baseball game.

Vikaas Shanker is an award-winning reporter covering education, crime and courts for the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise. After growing up in Naperville, Illinois and graduating from the University of Kansas, he reported in several Chicago suburbs before moving to Merced County in 2016.