SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Oct. 12, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Former three-time Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff believes if anyone is going to bring Brian Laundrie to justice in the disappearance and murder of Gabby Petito, it may very well be an old acquaintance of his, namely Duane Chapman aka Dog the Bounty Hunter.
Chapman “said he’s getting close,” Shurtleff said in an interview with Gephardt Daily. “I think he has as good a chance as anybody to find him.”
Shurtleff first met Chapman after the bounty hunter was charged with kidnapping in 2003 for chasing down a U.S. fugitive hiding in Mexico. Max Factor heir Andrew Luster was on the run after being convicted of sexual assault. Luster had paid $1 million bail after his arrest, and had fled the country. Because bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico, Chapman was charged with kidnapping once he captured Luster.
Chapman said he had been working with local Mexico officials, so he did not believe the charge was warranted. Shurtleff said Chapman called him after hearing the AG might be able to get in touch with Mexican officials.
“He reached out to me, saying ‘I got this trouble, I don’t know. I have an attorney here but they’re not budging down there in Mexico. They want to bring me back and try me with a felony…. Is there anything you can do? I’ve been told that you have these connections.'”
Shurtleff knew Mexico’s president Vincente Fox with whom he had worked on immigration issues, so agreed to fly to Denver to meet with Chapman.
“He’s this larger than life character and he opens the door and he goes like this (Shurtleff leaned his head back) — You’re big.”
Shurtleff stands 6 feet 5 inches, towering over Chapman by 10 inches.
Shurtleff said he is well aware of Chapman’s 1976 murder conviction in the death of Jerry Oliver, 69, who was shot by a friend when a drug deal went bad. Chapman had been in the getaway car, and served 18 months in a Texas prison before being paroled.
“He has a heart, and you know he went through his problems admitted his felonies, huge drug problem drug issues back in the day, and is clean and sober, and he’s very obviously very, very good at finding whoever he’s looking for,” Shurtleff said of Chapman.
“He found God in his own way. He’s, as I say, very sincere. I spent time in his home, just talking to him and yes, he’s got it. He’s got a great spirit he really cares. He’s definitely legit.”
Whether Shurtleff’s counsel helped Chapman stay out prison in Mexico is uncertain. Charges were formally dismissed by a Puerto Villarta court in 2007, when a judge ruled the charges violated the country’s statute of limitations. The case was appealed by prosecutors for more than a decade after the case was rejected on both sides of the border.
Shurtleff said Chapman’s taking an interest in the Gabby Petito case was “so refreshing” after what appears to be missteps by Florida officials investigating the case.
Shurtleff said he did not want to be too critical, but referred to those officials as “the Keystone cops,” faulting them for “not surveilling the house and keeping an eye on him if he left and, and so forth, and searching in the wrong areas and not listening to people who’ve say they saw him, or there’s a trail cam here or there — and Dog follows up on all those things.”
Laundrie was named a person of interest in the disappearance of girlfriend Gabby Petito after she was reported missing on Sept. 11. On Sept. 1, Laundrie had returned alone from a trip through Utah and the mountain west with Petito, and was driving the van they had been traveling in.
Days after Laundrie’s disappearance from his family home, Petito’s body was found in Wyoming, near Grand Teton National Park, where the two had been camping. Petito’s death was subsequently ruled a homicide.
Chapman has a big persona, but, Shurtleff said, “He’s not just show, I mean, a lot of that is his show, but he does it…. I do think if Brian Laundrie is alive and not at the bottom of a swamp… I think he has as good a chance as anybody to find him.”
To see Mark Shurtleff’s interview about his experience with Dog the Bounty Hunter, check out the video above.