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On August 24, 1981, Mark David Chapman is sentenced to 20 years to life for the murder of John Lennon, a founding member of The Beatles, one of the most successful bands in the history of popular music.
On December 8, 1980, Chapman shot and killed the 40-year-old singer, songwriter and peace activist, outside Lennon’s New York City apartment building, the Dakota, where he lived with his wife Yoko Ono and their young son Sean. Lennon, who was born on October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England, shot to fame in the 1960s with The Beatles, whose multiple best-selling albums and hit films, such as A Hard Day’s Night (1964), turned the group into hugely influential global pop icons. After The Beatles broke up in 1970, Lennon embarked on a successful solo music career, writing and performing such songs as “Imagine” and “(Just Like) Starting Over.” He also directed a 1972 documentary film, also titled Imagine, which was a sometimes-surreal glimpse at a day in the life of Lennon and Ono, set to their music.
On the day of Lennon’s murder, Chapman, a Beatles fan who was born in 1955, spent the day hanging out near the musician’s apartment on West 72nd Street and Central Park West. Late that afternoon, a photographer captured a shot of Lennon as he stopped to autograph his Double Fantasy album for Chapman before walking with Yoko Ono toward a limousine waiting to take them to a recording session. Later that night, shortly before 11 p.m., the couple returned to the Dakota, where a waiting Chapman shot Lennon four times as the musician walked toward his building. Chapman stayed at the scene, reading The Catcher in the Rye, a book he was obsessed with, until the police arrived and took him into custody. Lennon was pronounced dead at Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hospital around 11:15 p.m.
Chapman initially entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity; however, he later decided to drop the insanity defense and plead guilty to second-degree murder. At his sentencing hearing on August 24, 1981, Chapman read from The Catcher in the Rye. Chapman’s requests for parole have all been denied and he continues to serve time in prison in New York.
1980: John Lennon Killed with Four Bullets to the Back
On this day the 25-year-old Mark David Chapman killed John Lennon in New York. The murder took place in front of the famous Dakota apartment building, where Lennon and Yoko Ono lived, and which is located next to Central Park. Chapman had mental health problems and was for a long time was obsessed with the idea that he must kill Lennon. Otherwise, he was a big fan of the Beatles and Lennon since childhood. Before the murder, he flew to New York from Hawaii and went around the city in a way similar to the character of Holden Caulfield from Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye .
On the day of the murder, Chapman waited for Lennon outside of his building. Around 17:00 Lennon came out with Yoko Ono and headed toward their limousine. Chapman shook hands with him and Lennon signed him his recently released album. John and Yoko left, and Chapman continued to wait. Finally, John Lennon and Yoko Ono returned around 22:50, and it was only then that Chapman shot him. He hit him with four bullets to the back and killed him on the spot. He was sentenced to a prison term of 20 years to life, and is still serving the sentence in the famous Attica prison.
John Lennon's Killer: 'Jesus Has Helped Me to See That He Loves Me'
It's been almost 35 years since that fateful day on Dec. 8, 1980 ,when Mark David Chapman fired shots that echoed around the globe as they killed one of the world's most beloved singer-songwriters in ex-Beatle, John Lennon. But in Chapman's eighth parole board hearing this Wednesday, he told the New York state parole board that although he took Lennon's life in search of self-fame and notoriety, his life is no longer controlled by selfish demons and is now solely focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. Despite that claim, Chapman was again denied parole.
Chapman, who read a book on the Beatles when he was a child that had inspired him to become "somebody important or better," was lulled into a stark drunken depression in his life, unfulfilled as a security guard working in Hawaii. Upset because his childhood dreams of fame hadn't panned out, he stumbled across a picture of John Lennon and wondered "what would happen if I kill him?"
Mark David Chapman, the man responsible for the death of John Lennon. | (Photo: Facebook/Mark David Chapman)
What happened was Chapman, now 59 years old, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years to life in a New York prison about 25 miles west of Buffalo and nearly 5,000 miles away from his wife. Having been denied parole eight times now, it is looking like Chapman may be there for life. Although Chapman has been able to sit and think about the heinousness of the premeditated murder he committed, that time has also allowed him to apparently come to Christ.
"I had extremely selfish motives for my own self-glory. Thats the best way I can say it," Chapman told the board, according to the parole hearing transcript. "My focus is totally, it isn't on me anymore. God has helped me through the years to see, 'hey, there is other people in this world.' Jesus has helped me to see that he loves me, and that is what has made the difference in my life is him."
Chapman said that what helped lead him back into the light of God, was a series of letter exchanges between him and a pastor. Since the release of the parole report protects private identities, the name of the pastor was blacked out. But, at the beginning of Chapman's sentence, he had received a letter from this pastor. Although it took Chapman a year and half before he would respond to the letter, over the last 33 years Chapman has written over an estimated 500 letters to this pastor who has helped him with spiritual guidance. Chapman said he meets with him every now and again and is scheduled to meet with him in a few weeks.
Chapman said there is only one purpose in his life now: preach about the love of Jesus Christ to prisoners. Chapman says his ministry is designed to let all the prisoners that come in and have the chance to get released know there is a different type of life to be had than the one they entered prison with. That is life with Jesus. He said he wants them to know that Jesus was sent to Earth "so that we could have a good life here and be forgiven for anything we've done so that we can have a better life after we go."
"I am interested in one thing and that is ministering to prisoners," Chapman said. "Me and my wife have a ministry. We distribute brochures and tell people about Christ. These kids coming in here now, they can have an option. They don't have to go to the gangs. They can find another way of life. That's what we're into. We have been for a long time. That's where my heart is. Believe me, I am interested in no press whatsoever."
Chapman and his wife, Gloria, despite living halfway across the globe from one another, are still married. She tries to visit about once a year from Honolulu. Although she can't physically be with him except for her short visits, she still plays a major role in Chapman's faith. Although It is not all that common for "significant others" to stay married to an inmate especially after three decades, Chapman thanks Jesus for her commitment.
"I can't believe she has stuck with me for all these years but she has," Chapman said. "We are closer to the Lord now than we were on the street. So I am going to credit him with keeping our marriage together and our sanity."
Chapman's parole was denied primarily because of the premeditated nature of Chapman's act. Although Chapman was adamant that he has no reason to commit another murder because he already has the fame he was searching for, the parole felt he could not "live and remain at liberty without again violating the law" and his release would be undermining the law.
8 December 1980 Edit
Portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz went to the Lennons' apartment to do a photo shoot for Rolling Stone magazine.  Leibovitz promised them that a photo of the two of them together would make the front cover of the magazine. Leibovitz took several photos of John Lennon alone and one was originally set to be on the cover.  Leibovitz said, "Nobody wanted [Ono] on the cover".  Lennon insisted that both he and his wife be on the cover, and after taking the pictures, Leibovitz left their apartment at 3:30 p.m.  After the photo shoot, Lennon gave what would be his last interview, to San Francisco DJ Dave Sholin, for a music show to be broadcast on the RKO Radio Network.  At around 5 p.m., Lennon and Ono, delayed by a late limousine, left their apartment to mix the song "Walking on Thin Ice" (an Ono song featuring Lennon on lead guitar) at the Record Plant Studio. 
Mark David Chapman Edit
Mark David Chapman, a 25-year-old former security guard from Honolulu, Hawaii, was a fan of the Beatles with no prior criminal convictions.  He claimed that he had been enraged by Lennon's infamous, much-publicized 1966 remark about the group being "more popular than Jesus", and especially by the lyrics of Lennon's later songs. Chapman said he decided Lennon was a "phony" based on the dichotomy between Lennon's altruistic lyric "imagine no possessions" and his lavish lifestyle as depicted in Anthony Fawcett's book John Lennon: One Day at a Time, published by Grove Press in 1976.  J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye took on great personal significance for Chapman, to the extent that he wished to model his life after the novel's protagonist Holden Caulfield. One of the novel's main themes is Caulfield's rage against adult hypocrisy and "phonies". 
Chapman took a flight to New York on 6 December 1980.  On the morning of 8 December, Chapman left his room at the Sheraton Hotel, leaving personal items behind that the police would later find. He bought a copy of The Catcher in the Rye in which he wrote "This is my statement", signing it "Holden Caulfield." Chapman then waited for Lennon outside the Dakota in early-morning and spent most of the day near the entrance to the Dakota, talking to fans and the doorman. During that morning, a distracted Chapman missed seeing Lennon step out of a cab and enter the Dakota. Later in the morning, Chapman met Lennon's family nanny, Helen Seaman, who was returning from a walk with Lennon's five-year-old son Sean. Chapman reached in front of the housekeeper to shake Sean's hand and said that he was a beautiful boy, quoting Lennon's song "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)".  
At approximately 5:00 p.m., Lennon and Ono left the Dakota for a recording session at Record Plant Studios. As they were walking to a limousine (shared with the RKO Radio crew), they were approached by Chapman. It was common for fans to wait outside the Dakota to meet Lennon and ask for his autograph.  Lennon liked to oblige, with autographs or pictures, any fans who had been waiting for long periods of time to meet him, stating during a 6 December 1980 interview with BBC Radio's Andy Peebles: "People come and ask for autographs, or say 'Hi', but they don't bug you." 
Chapman asked Lennon to sign a copy of his album, Double Fantasy.   Later, Chapman said, "He was very kind to me. Ironically, very kind and was very patient with me. The limousine was waiting . and he took his time with me and he got the pen going and he signed my album. He asked me if I needed anything else. I said, 'No. No sir.' And he walked away. Very cordial and decent man."  Photographer and Lennon fan Paul Goresh took a photo of Lennon signing Chapman's album. 
The Lennons spent several hours at the Record Plant studio before returning to the Dakota at approximately 10:50 p.m.  Lennon decided against dining out so he could be home in time to say goodnight to his son, before going on to the Stage Deli restaurant with Ono.  The Lennons exited their limousine on 72nd Street instead of driving into the more secure courtyard of the Dakota. 
The Dakota doorman Jose Perdomo and a nearby taxi driver saw Chapman standing in the shadows by the archway.  The Lennons passed Chapman and walked toward the archway entrance of the building. As Ono passed by, Chapman nodded at her. As Lennon passed by, he glanced briefly at Chapman, appearing to recognize him from earlier.  Seconds later, Chapman drew a Charter Arms .38 caliber revolver he had concealed in his coat pocket, aimed at the center of Lennon's back and rapidly fired five hollow-point bullets at Lennon from a distance of about nine or ten feet (3 m). 
Based on statements made that night by New York City Police Department Chief of Detectives James Sullivan, numerous radio, television, and newspaper reports at the time claimed before firing Chapman called out "Mr. Lennon" and dropped into a combat stance.  Later court hearings and witness interviews did not include either "Mr. Lennon" or the "combat stance" description. Chapman said that he does not remember calling out to Lennon before he fired,    and that Lennon did not turn around.  He claimed to have taken a "combat stance" in a 1992 interview with Barbara Walters. 
One bullet missed Lennon and struck a window of the Dakota building. The other four hit Lennon in the back and shoulder, puncturing his left lung and left subclavian artery.  Lennon, bleeding profusely from external wounds and from his mouth, staggered up five steps to the security/reception area where he said, "I'm shot! I'm shot!" [note 1]  He then fell to the floor, scattering cassettes that he was carrying. Perdomo ran inside and told concierge worker Jay Hastings that the attacker dropped his gun on the pavement. Hastings first started to make a tourniquet, but upon ripping open Lennon's blood-stained shirt and realising the severity of the musician's multiple injuries, he covered Lennon's chest with his uniform jacket, removed his blood-covered glasses, and summoned the police. 
Chapman then removed his coat and hat in preparation for the arrival of police—to show he was not carrying any concealed weapons—and remained standing on West 72nd Street.  Underneath his coat, he wore a promotional T-shirt for the musician Todd Rundgren's album Hermit of Mink Hollow.  Perdomo shouted at Chapman, "Do you know what you've done?", to which Chapman calmly replied, "Yes, I just shot John Lennon." 
Officers Steven Spiro and Peter Cullen were the first policemen to arrive at the scene they were at 72nd Street and Broadway when they heard a report of shots fired at the Dakota. The officers arrived around two minutes later and found Chapman standing very calmly on West 72nd Street. They reported that Chapman had dropped the revolver to the ground and was holding a paperback book, J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Later, he claimed, "If you were able to view the actual copy of The Catcher in the Rye that was taken from me on the night of Dec. 8, you would find in it the handwritten words, 'This is my statement.'"  They immediately put Chapman in handcuffs and placed him in the back seat of their squad car. Chapman made no attempt to flee or resist arrest. 
Officer Herb Frauenberger and his partner Tony Palma were the second team, arriving a few minutes later. They found Lennon lying face down on the floor of the reception area, blood pouring from his mouth and his clothing already soaked with it, with Hastings attending to him.  Realizing the extent of Lennon's injuries, the policemen decided not to wait for an ambulance and immediately carried Lennon into their squad car. He was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital on West 59th Street.  Officer James Moran said they placed Lennon in the back seat. 
Reportedly, Moran asked, "Are you John Lennon?" to which Lennon nodded and replied, "Yes."  According to another account by officer Bill Gamble, Lennon nodded slightly and tried to speak, but could only manage to make a gurgling sound, and lost consciousness shortly thereafter. 
A few minutes before 11:00 p.m., Moran arrived at Roosevelt Hospital with Lennon in his squad car. Moran was carrying Lennon on his back and onto a gurney, demanding a doctor for a multiple gunshot wound victim. When Lennon was brought in, he was not breathing, and had no pulse. Three doctors, a nurse, and two or three other medical attendants worked on Lennon for 10 to 20 minutes in an attempt to resuscitate him. As a last resort, the doctors cut open Lennon's chest and attempted manual heart massage to restore circulation, but they quickly discovered that the damage to the blood vessels above and around Lennon's heart from the multiple bullet wounds was too great. 
Three of the four bullets that struck Lennon's back passed completely through his body and out of his chest, while the fourth lodged itself in his aorta beside his heart. One of the exiting bullets from his chest hit and became lodged in his upper left arm. Several of the wounds could have been fatal by themselves, because each bullet had ruptured vital arteries around the heart. Lennon was shot four times at close range with hollow-point bullets and his affected organs—particularly his left lung and major blood vessels above his heart—were virtually destroyed upon impact. 
Information regarding who operated on and attempted to resuscitate Lennon has varied. Many reports said Stephen Lynn, the head of the Emergency Department at Roosevelt Hospital, performed Lennon's surgery. In 2005, Lynn said he massaged Lennon's heart and attempted to resuscitate him for 20 minutes, that two other doctors were present, and that the three of them declared Lennon's death.  Conversely in 1990, Richard Marks, an emergency room surgeon at Roosevelt Hospital, stated he operated on Lennon, administered a "massive" blood transfusion, and provided heart massage to no avail. "When I realized he wasn't going to make it," said Marks, "I just sewed him back up. I felt helpless."  In 2015, surgeon David Halleran disputed the accounts of both Marks and Lynn, stating that the two doctors "didn't do anything." Halleran also stated that he did not realise whom he was operating on initially, and that Lynn only came to assist him when he heard that it was Lennon. At the time, Halleran was a third-year general surgery resident at Roosevelt Hospital.  
— Stephen Lynn, head of the Emergency Department at Roosevelt Hospital 
Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:15 p.m.,  but the time of 11:07 p.m. has also been reported.  Witnesses noted that the Beatles song "All My Loving" came over the hospital's sound system at the moment Lennon was pronounced dead.  His body was then taken to the city morgue at 520 First Avenue for an autopsy. The cause of death was reported on his death certificate as "hypovolemic shock, caused by the loss of more than 80% of blood volume due to multiple through-and-through gunshot wounds to the left shoulder and left chest resulting in damage to the left lung, the left subclavian artery, and both the aorta and aortic arch".  According to the report, even with prompt medical treatment, no person could have lived for more than a few minutes with multiple bullet wounds affecting all of the major arteries and veins around the heart. 
Lynn informed Ono of her husband's death. According to Lynn, Ono started sobbing and said, "Oh no, no, no, no . tell me it's not true!" He said that Ono then lay down and began hitting her head against the floor, but calmed down when a nurse gave Lennon's wedding ring to her. His account is disputed by two of the nurses who were there.  In a 2015 interview, Ono denied hitting her head on a concrete floor and stated that her chief concern at the time was to remain calm and take care of her son Sean.  She was led away from Roosevelt Hospital by a policeman and Geffen Records' president, David Geffen. 
Monday Night Football Edit
Ono asked the hospital not to report to the media that her husband was dead until she informed their five-year-old son Sean, who was at home. Ono said he was probably watching television and that she did not want him to learn of his father's death from a TV announcement.  Meanwhile, news producer Alan J. Weiss of WABC-TV had been waiting to be treated in the Roosevelt Hospital ER after being injured in a motorcycle accident earlier in the evening. Weiss recalled in 2013 that he saw Lennon being wheeled into the room surrounded by police officers. After he learned what happened, Weiss called his station with the information. Eventually, word made its way to ABC News president Roone Arledge. 
Arledge was also the president of the network's sports division, and was presiding over ABC's telecast of Monday Night Football as its executive producer. When Arledge received word of Lennon's death, a game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins was tied with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter and the Patriots were driving toward the potential winning score. As the Patriots tried to put themselves in position for a field goal, Arledge informed Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell of the shooting and suggested that they report the murder. Cosell, who had interviewed Lennon during a Monday Night Football broadcast in 1974, was chosen to do so but was apprehensive of it at first, as he felt the game should take precedence and that it was not their place to break such a big story. Gifford convinced Cosell otherwise, saying that he should not "hang on to (the news)" as the significance of the killing was greater than the finish of the game.
With thirty seconds left in the fourth quarter, the following exchange took place: 
Cosell: . but [the game]'s suddenly been placed in total perspective for us. I'll finish this they're in the hurry-up offense.
Gifford: Third down, four. [Chuck] Foreman . it'll be fourth down. [Matt] Cavanaugh will let it run down for one final attempt he'll let the seconds tick off to give Miami no opportunity whatsoever. (Whistle blows.) Timeout is called with three seconds remaining John Smith is on the line. And I don't care what's on the line, Howard, you have got to say what we know in the booth.
Cosell: Yes, we have to say it. Remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City - John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City — the most famous, perhaps, of all of the Beatles — shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that newsflash, which, in duty bound, we have to take. Frank?
Gifford: (after a pause) Indeed, it is. 
Other announcements Edit
New York rock station WNEW-FM 102.7 immediately suspended all programming and opened its lines to calls from listeners. Stations throughout the country switched to special programming devoted to Lennon and/or Beatles music. 
The following day, Ono issued a statement: "There is no funeral for John. John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him. Love, Yoko and Sean." 
— Jay Cocks, TIME, 22 December 1980 
On the day following the murder, Lennon's Beatle bandmate George Harrison issued a prepared statement for the press: "After all we went through together, I had and still have great love and respect for him. I am shocked and stunned. To rob a life is the ultimate robbery in life. The perpetual encroachment on other people's space is taken to the limit with the use of a gun. It is an outrage that people can take other people's lives when they obviously haven't got their own lives in order." Harrison later privately told friends, "I just wanted to be in a band. Here we are, 20 years later, and some whack job has shot my mate. I just wanted to play guitar in a band." 
Lennon's former writing partner Paul McCartney was leaving an Oxford Street recording studio when reporters asked him for his reaction he responded, "Drag, isn't it?". When publicised, the response was widely criticised, and even McCartney himself regretted the seemingly callous remark. McCartney later said that he had intended no disrespect and simply was unable to articulate his feelings, given the shock and sadness he felt over Lennon's murder. 
Lennon's murder triggered an outpouring of grief around the world on an unprecedented scale.  His remains were cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, Westchester County, New York no funeral was held.  Ono sent word to the chanting crowd outside the Dakota that their singing had kept her awake she asked that they re-convene at the Central Park Bandshell the following Sunday for ten minutes of silent prayer.  On 14 December 1980, millions of people around the world responded to Ono's request to pause for ten minutes of silence to remember Lennon.  30,000 gathered in Lennon's hometown of Liverpool, and the largest group—over 225,000—converged on Central Park, close to the scene of the shooting.  For those ten minutes, every radio station in New York City went off the air. 
At least three Beatles fans killed themselves after the murder,  leading Ono to make a public appeal asking mourners not to give in to despair.  On 18 January 1981, a full-page open letter from Ono appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Titled "In Gratitude", it expressed thanks to the millions of people who mourned Lennon's loss and wanted to know how they could commemorate his life and help her and Sean. 
Double Fantasy, which was released three weeks before Lennon's murder and initially poorly received, became a worldwide commercial success and went on to win the 1981 Album of the Year award at the 24th Annual Grammy Awards.
Ono released a solo album, Season of Glass, in 1981. The cover of the album is a photograph of Lennon's blood-spattered glasses. That same year she also released "Walking on Thin Ice", the song the Lennons had mixed at the Record Plant less than an hour before he was murdered, as a single. 
John Hinckley tried to assassinate president Ronald Reagan three months after Lennon's murder, and the police found a copy of Catcher in the Rye among his personal belongings.  He left a cassette tape in his hotel room on which he stated that he mourned Lennon's death. He said that he wanted to make "some kind of statement" after Lennon's death. 
Chapman pleaded guilty in 1981 to murdering Lennon.     Under the terms of his guilty plea, he was sentenced to 20-years-to-life and later automatically became eligible for parole in 2000.  However, he has been denied parole eleven times and remains incarcerated in an Upstate New York prison.  
Jay Hastings, the Dakota doorman who tried to help Lennon, sold the shirt he was wearing that night, stained with Lennon's blood, at auction in 2016. It sold for £31,000. 
Mark David Chapman Today
Today, Chapman is serving out his sentence at Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York.
He was denied parole for the 11th time in August 2020. For every parole hearing, Yoko Ono has sent a personal letter urging the board to keep John Lennon’s killer behind bars.
His first attempt at parole in 2000 was denied partly because the board believed Chapman had a continued interest in “maintaining [his] notoriety.”
Public Domain Mark David Chapman circa 2010. His 11th parole hearing was denied in August 2020.
After all, Chapman had previously claimed that he murdered Lennon for notoriety. And in 2010, he said, “I felt that by killing John Lennon I would become somebody, and instead of that I became a murderer, and murderers are not somebodies.” He also said that he chose Lennon because “he seemed more accessible to me” than other stars.
It was in 2014 that Mark David Chapman told a parole board, “I am sorry for being such an idiot and choosing the wrong way for glory,” and that Jesus “has forgiven me.” Unmoved, the board maintained that Chapman wouldn’t be able to “remain at liberty without again violating the law.”
Wikimedia Commons Roses are placed in Strawberry Fields, a Central Park memorial dedicated to John Lennon in 1985.
The man who shot John Lennon has since described his actions as “premeditated, selfish, and evil.”
“I was too far in,” recalled Chapman during his 2018 parole hearing. “I do remember having the thought of, hey, you have got the album now, look at this, he signed it, just go home, but there was no way I was going to go home.”
After learning about Mark David Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon, read these 21 surprising John Lennon facts. Then, learn the full story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
John Lennon’s Killer: ‘I Know What Shame Is Now’
Mark David Chapman, who killed John Lennon, says he finally feels shame for murdering the former Beatle.
Mark David Chapman, who shot and killed John Lennon in 1980, recently told a parole board that he finally felt regret for what he did. “Thirty years ago I couldn’t say I felt shame and I know what shame is now,” he said at a hearing in August. “It’s where you cover your face, you don’t want to, you know, ask for anything.” He added, according to The Associated Press, that he felt “more and more shame” as each year passed.
Although the hearing took place at the Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York over the summer, a transcript was released just today. He was denied release by the Board of Parole, which said doing so would “tend to mitigate the seriousness of [his] crime” and could put the public at risk in case someone attacked him for revenge. It was the 10th time a parole board decided to keep him serving his sentence, 20 years to life. He’ll be up for parole again in August 2020.
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Mark David Chapman in 2018. Photo: NYSDC/AP/Shutterstock
At this year’s hearing, he recounted the events of December 8th, 1980, when he procured an autograph from the former Beatle outside his home and shot and killed him hours later. At the hearing, he said he struggled with whether or not to go through with the killing, since Lennon had been nice to him. “I was too far in,” Chapman said. “I do remember having the thought of, ‘Hey, you have got the album now. Look at this, he signed it, just go home.’ But there was no way I was just going to go home.”
Now he calls the murder “senseless,” saying he was seeking only notoriety and felt no personal ill will toward the Beatle. Nevertheless, as AP reports, he chose to use a hollow-point bullet, which is deadlier than a regular bullet. “I secured those bullets to make sure he would be dead,” he said. “It was immediately after the crime that I was concerned that he did not suffer.”
These days, he says he’s a born-again Christian. His tasks in prison include cleaning, painting and removing wax from floors. But he says he now recognizes that his act of wrath will survive “even after I die.”
Chapman was last denied parole in 2016. At the time, the parole board gave a similar explanation to this year’s for keeping him locked up: “From our interview and review of your records, we find that your release would be incompatible with the welfare of society and would so deprecate that seriousness of the crime as to undermine respect for the law.”
John Lennon’s killer denied parole for seventh time
John Lennon’s murderer has been denied parole for a seventh time, New York State’s Department of Corrections has announced.
Mark Chapman, 57, shot and killed John Lennon, 40, in New York City on the night of 8 December 1980. He was sentenced in 1981 to 20 years to life imprisonment after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
He has been given a parole hearing every two years since 2000 and has been turned down each time. The transcript of this latest hearing, before a three-member board on Wednesday 22 August 2012, has not yet been released. The board members were Sally Thompson, Joseph Crangle and Marc Coppola.Despite your positive efforts while incarcerated, your release at this time would greatly undermine respect for the law and tend to trivialise the tragic loss of life which you caused as a result of this heinous, unprovoked, violent, cold and calculated crime.
The panel notes your good conduct, program achievements, educational accomplishments, positive presentation, remorse, risk and needs assessment, letters of support, significant opposition to your release and all other statutory factors were considered. However, parole shall not be granted for good conduct and program completions alone.
Chapman will be eligible for another parole hearing in two years’ time.
In May Chapman was transferred from the Attica Correctional Facility in western New York to the nearby Wende Correctional Facility in the town of Alden in Erie County, New York. Both are maximum security buildings.
He is kept in a single-person cell, according to corrections spokeswoman Carole Claren-Weaver, and is allowed out three hours per day. According to corrections officials he has been held in protective custody with a good disciplinary record.
Earlier this week Chapman was granted a request to be allowed conjugal visits with his wife Gloria Hiroko Chapman, whom he married in 1979.
He had applied to the ‘family reunion’ program while an inmate at Attica, but had to reapply after being transferred to Wende. The program allows Chapman to be allowed to spend up to 48 hours with his wife on prison grounds, in a trailer which has a kitchenette, living room and two bedrooms, but no cameras or guards.
‘I just shot John Lennon’: He lived a quiet life in Hawaii until he became a notorious killer
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hours before his death, on Dec. 8, 1980, John Lennon looked his killer in the eyes and saw a pudgy, seemingly unremarkable man who’d shyly asked for an autograph.
Hours later, the former Beatle would be dead — fatally shot as he returned to his luxury apartment in New York with his wife. It wouldn’t take long for the world to learn his assassin’s name: Mark David Chapman, an out-of-work security guard from Hawaii with a history of mental illness.
Chapman would later say that he’d heard voices in his head that told him to kill Lennon. Rather than pursue an insanity defense, as his lawyers wanted him to, Chapman pleaded guilty to the murder.
He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison and has been denied parole 11 times.
On the 40th anniversary of Lennon’s death, Hawaii News Now dug into the archives and conducted interviews with those who were there to help tell the Hawaii story of the man who killed one of the world’s biggest stars and understand the woman who has never left his side, his wife Gloria.
[For more special coverage of the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, click here.]
Mark David Chapman, born in 1955, grew up in Georgia in what he’s described as a troubled home.
His father was a sergeant in the Air Force. His mother, a nurse. Chapman has said his father was abusive to him and his mother — so abusive that Chapman sometimes fantasized about killing him.
Chapman also says he experienced bullying at school. In his teen years, he started experimenting with drugs and began to show the first signs of mental illness, including hearing voices.
At 16, Chapman continued to struggle with depression but he seemed to be improving. He became a born-again Christian and started working with the YMCA.
But before long, things started to fall apart.
He tried college several times but dropped out without getting too far. Depressed and suicidal, Chapman came to Oahu in 1977 and was admitted to Castle Memorial Hospital for treatment.
After being released, he started working at the facility as a housekeeper.
A coworker would later remember Chapman as enthusiastic and happy: “He did his job well, faithfully, sometimes even beyond what we asked him to do. He was just a good guy.”
It was that “good guy” that Chapman’s future wife would soon meet.
Gloria Abe was working at a travel agency and met Chapman when he came in to plan an extended trip to Asia. “He came in often to make changes and ask me things,” she would later recall.
“I found him to be kind, generous, sweet, thoughtful and very smart.”
Before Chapman left, he sent her a big teddy bear and roses. She responded by jumping in her car the morning of his departure to see him off. “I’d never done anything like this in my life, but I felt compelled to go to his house . and give him a lei,” she said. And that’s what she did.
She also knew which hotels he was staying at so she would call them in advance and have little notes waiting for him in his rooms. “They were not love letters,” she said, “just friendly ones.”
He responded by sending postcards of all the places he’d traveled to.
When Chapman returned, Gloria met him at the airport. “We began dating the very next night,” she recalled. It was 1978, and before long, “we felt as if we had known each other for years.”
Gloria, who had grown up Buddhist in the islands, converted to Christianity for Chapman. And the two started going to church together. He proposed to her on the beach in Kailua.
By June 1979, they were married and dreaming of starting a family together.
But their seemingly picture-perfect life wouldn’t last.
Chapman, who had been working as a security guard, got a higher paying job as a printer at a hospital after getting married. He told his wife he wanted to be a better provider.
But he wasn’t there long before he was fired, following an angry run-in with a supervisor.
Chapman was also changing in other ways. He’d started drinking heavily and losing his temper easily. He didn’t want to spend time with his wife or go to parties like they used to.
“On a couple of occasions, he hurt me physically,” Gloria said. “He began to withdraw into himself.”
As he withdrew, Chapman developed several obsessions or expanded old ones, including with Lennon and “The Catcher in the Rye.” A longtime Beatles fan, he now perceived Lennon as a phony — a theme of JD Salinger’s book that now consumed his thoughts — more interested in money than music.
In an interview with Larry King in 1992, Chapman said he wasn’t blaming “The Catcher in the Rye” for driving him to kill Lennon.“I blame myself for crawling inside of the book. It’s my fault,” he said.
“I crawled in and found my pseudo-self within these pages, but that’s fiction and reality was standing in front of the Dakota,” the apartment building where Lennon lived — and where he would die.
In October 1980, Chapman quit his job as a Waikiki security guard and bought a gun. He then flew to New York and, as he later told his wife, had every intention of killing Lennon then but backed out.
When he returned to Hawaii, he told Gloria his plans.
“He said, my love had saved him. And he even had me hold the gun, which was still cold from being in the plane’s cargo. Very cold,” she said, during a talk several years ago.
In early December 1980, Chapman flew again to New York — and lied to his wife about his intentions.
Chapman told her that he needed to make the trip to “grow up as an adult, as a husband, maybe as a father someday,” she said. “He needed time to think about his life. He wanted me to sacrifice a short time of being alone so that we could have a long happy marriage together.”
Brook Hart was Gloria’s attorney.
He said he couldn’t identify any way that she could have prevented what would happen on Dec. 8, 1980 — even knowing what she did about his obsessions. “The power difference in the relationship with her husband was such, you know he did what he wanted to do,” Hart told Hawaii News Now.
“She certainly had no inkling that he was going to do something.”
But she would soon know what he had done.
On Dec. 8, 1980, Gloria came home from work, fixed dinner, sat down on the sofa and turned on “Little House on the Prairie.” A news ticker on the bottom of the screen made her heart stop.
“John Lennon had been shot in New York City,” she said. “I just knew it was Mark.”
News of Lennon’s death sent a shock wave around the world. The former Beatle had been shot four times. His condition was so grave, a police officer drove him to the hospital himself rather than wait for an ambulance. It was still too late. John Lennon was dead, and Mark David Chapman was a killer.
After the shooting, Chapman remained at the scene.
The building’s doorman yelled at him: “Do you know what you just did?” Chapman responded calmly, his face covered with Lennon’s blood, “I just shot John Lennon.”
Chapman would later tell Larry King that it was surreal to have met Lennon earlier in the day. “He knew something subconsciously. He was looking into the eyes of the person that was going to kill him,” Chapman said. “I was ready for this to happen. I . heard a voice say, ‘do it, do it, do it.’”
HNN Managing Editor Daryl Huff was a cub reporter in 1980. He said local media learned fairly quickly that Lennon’s killer was a man from Hawaii. “It was a big story. It was just full court press,” Huff said.
Reporters interviewed those in the islands who knew Chapman, including former colleagues.
People who worked with him as a security guard in Waikiki recalled a man who was quiet and relatively problem-free. They did note one strange thing, however: On Oct. 23, the day he suddenly quit, Chapman signed out on his employee’s log as “John Lennon.”
The revelation was chilling.
Huff said he was also given a major tip on the story: He learned that Chapman had a history of mental illness and had visited two mental health clinics in Hawaii just before going to New York.
“Both clinics admitted they had basically turned him away,” Huff said. “The other big thing was just the huge national attention that was suddenly shifted on Hawaii and the fact that he had sought mental health treatment here and been turned away was kind of a black eye.”
While reporters retraced Chapman’s footsteps, they also sought to learn more about his wife. The two had lived on the 21st floor of Kukui Plaza. And it was in their small apartment that Gloria mourned the loss of the life she would never know and struggled to come to terms with what her husband had done.
“My life changed, changed dramatically,” she said. “I was now, Mrs. Mark David Chapman, the wife of a murderer, and not just any murderer but one who who’s victim was known and loved by millions.”
Rather than fend off reporters at every turn, Gloria’s attorney — Hart — decided to hold a large news conference with her. Hundreds of journalists showed up to show a killer’s wife to the world.
At that news conference, Gloria appears stunned and in shock.
“I just want to say that I’m just still, again, very concerned about Mark, and I’m just very, very sorry that this had to happen to Yoko Ono, and her family and that her husband had to die,” Gloria said back then, speaking slowly and seemingly with little emotion.
“I think that maybe just somehow some good is going to come out of this,” she said. “I feel I’ve always been a forgiving person and that I cannot recall that I’ve not forgiven Mark for any wrong thing that he has done. I love him very much, and I’m just very sorry that all this had to happen .
“That John Lennon had to die and that his wife and son going through what they’re going through.”
In his 1992 interview with Larry King, Chapman recalls standing outside Lennon’s apartment building, the Dakota, with his gun in his pocket.
“You knew you were going to shoot him?” King asks Chapman.
“Tried not to, praying not to, but knowing down deep that it was probably going to come to that.”
On the morning of the killing, Chapman had purchased a copy of “The Catcher in they Rye.” In it, he’d written, “This is my statement.” Later in the day, he missed his first chance of seeing Lennon because he’d been distracted reading the book. He didn’t miss Lennon a second time, stopping him as the musician headed to his taxi that afternoon. “I said, ‘John, will you sign my album?’ He said sure.”
At around 10:50 that night, Lennon and his wife returned from the recording studio.
Here’s Chapman account of what happened next, from that interview with Larry King:
He walked past me, I took five steps toward the street, turned withdrew my 38 and fired. What happened before the shooting, before I pulled the trigger and after were two different scenes in my mind. Before everything was like dead calm and I was ready for this to happen. I even heard of voice, my own, inside of me, say, ‘do it, do it, do it, here we go.’ And then afterwards, it was like, the film strip broke. I fell in upon myself. I went into a state of shock. I stood there with the gun hanging limply down on my right side, and Jose the doorman and came over and he’s crying, and he’s grabbing my arm and he’s shaking my arm and he shook the gun right out of my hand. Which was a very brave thing to do, I just couldn’t wait, Larry, until those police got there. I was just devastated.
New York City Police Officer Steve Spiro arrived at the scene within minutes and arrested Chapman.
“The first thing he said was, ‘I acted alone,’” Spiro said. “I thought it was very strange, and then he said, ‘don’t hurt me, and don’t let anybody else hurt me.’ And I said, no, nobody’s gonna hurt you.”
For decades, Spiro held on to letters that Chapman had written to him from prison.
“One of the first things he asked in the letter that he wrote to me was, ‘do you know where my copy of the Catcher in the Rye is?’” Spiro said. “I wrote back sure . it was vouchered and it’s in evidence.”
In one letter, Chapman tells Spiro that Lennon was a phony but he wasn’t the only one.
“He said that these people on the hit list, including John Lennon, were phonies,” Spiro said. “They were not taking there money and giving it to the charities that he felt they should be giving it to.”
Chapman told King, speaking in the third person:
“Mark David Chapman at that point was a walking shell who didn’t ever learn how to let out his feelings of anger, of rage, of disappointment. Mark David Chapman was a failure in his own mind. He wanted to become somebody important, Larry. He didn’t know how to handle being a nobody.”
In 2000, Chapman became eligible for parole. Every two years, he can go before a parole board to plead his case. And 11 times so far, a parole board has denied his request to be let out.
The most recent proceeding happened earlier this year.
Through the years behind bars, the parole requests denied and even after moving to a new facility, one thing has remained constant in Chapman’s life — and that’s Gloria’s love.
Speaking to a religious congregation in New York several years ago, Gloria said she did consider divorce back in 1980. She understands why many would question her decision to stay by Chapman’s side. She also doesn’t care her mind is made up.
“I kept asking God what to do. Stay with Mark? Or leave? Stay with Mark? Or leave? And I searched the Bible to read what God says about divorce,” Gloria said, during a recent talk. “Finally, in the Book of Malachi I read these words, ‘I hate divorce.’ . That settled it.
“From that moment on it didn’t matter how long Mark was in prison, I would wait for him.”
And she has, traveling to New York for conjugal visits and helping Chapman run a prison ministry.
In several interviews in recent years, Gloria has expressed optimism that her husband will eventually be let out. She says she wants to walk with him again on Kailua beach, where he proposed.
And she claims Chapman is a man reformed.
“Mark has the gift of evangelism and he has the goal of reaching every man at the prison where he is at,” Gloria said. “Just five minutes with Mark, the conversation is quickly going to turn around to Jesus.”
For his part, Chapman has tried to convince the parole board that while he is Lennon’s killer, he is no longer the man who pulled the trigger — the man who allowed an obsession drive him to murder.
“Today I am different. I read the Bible, I pray, and I walk with him, he forgives me. He doesn’t condone what I did. He doesn’t like the pain I caused everybody. Especially John’s widow,” he told Larry King.
More recently, Chapman said he deserves to die in prison for his “creepy, despicable” act.
Whether that happens will be up to a parole board. He’ll appear before the next one in 2022.
Mark David Chapman has been denied parole 11 times.
Since his original sentencing in 1981, Chapman has appealed his sentencing 11 separate times, requesting to be released on parole. Every time, he has been denied.
His most recent appeal happened in August 2020, and the Board of Parole ruled that he will spend at least two more years in prison.
Chapman was given a sentence of 20 years to life in 1981 on the second-degree murder charge after pleading guilty to the charges.
In 2010, Chapman claimed that he assassinated the famous singer because he believed it would make him "become somebody, and instead of that I became a murderer, and murderers are not somebodies."
During his 2018 parole hearing, Chapman expressed clear remorse for his actions.
“Thirty years ago I couldn’t say I felt shame and I know what shame is now," he said, according to The Guardian. "It’s where you cover your face, you don’t want to, you know, ask for anything.”
At each parole hearing, John&aposs widow, Yoko Ono (who was there at the time of John&aposs assassination), has submitted a letter reiterating why she believes her late husband&aposs killer should not be released from prison — for the safety of her, her children, and Chapman.
“Someone may attempt or succeed in harming you out of anger and or revenge, or for the same reason that you did John Lennon, to assume notoriety," Yoko wrote in one of the letters, according to Rolling Stone.
The Legacy Of John Lennon’s Death Today
Wikimedia Commons Roses in Strawberry Fields, a Central Park memorial dedicated to John Lennon.
In the days that followed John Lennon’s death, the world mourned with his wife and former bandmates. Crowds gathered outside The Dakota, where Lennon was shot. Radio stations played old Beatles hits. Candlelight vigils took place all over the world. Sadly, some fans found the news of John Lennon’s death so devastating that they took their own lives.
Ono, with help from New York City officials, created a fitting tribute to her late husband. A few months after Lennon’s death, the city named a small section of Central Park “Strawberry Fields” after one of the most iconic Beatles songs.
In the years since, this stretch of the park has become a memorial for John Lennon. Among the 2.5 acres of Strawberry Fields is a circular black-and-white marble mosaic, impressed with the word “Imagine” at its center — a nod to one of Lennon’s most famous songs.
“During his career with the Beatles and in his solo work, John’s music gave hope and inspiration to people around the world,” Ono later said. “His campaign for peace lives on, symbolized here at Strawberry Fields.”
John Lennon lives on in more ways than Strawberry Fields. His music continues to delight and enchant generations. And “Imagine” — Lennon’s iconic song about imagining a peaceful world — is considered by some to be the greatest song of all time.
As for Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, he remains behind bars to this day. His parole has been denied 11 times. For every hearing, Yoko Ono has sent a personal letter urging the board to keep him in prison.
Public Domain An updated mugshot of Mark David Chapman. Circa 2010.
Chapman previously claimed that he murdered Lennon for notoriety. In 2010, he said, “I felt that by killing John Lennon I would become somebody, and instead of that I became a murderer, and murderers are not somebodies.” In 2014 he said, “I am sorry for being such an idiot and choosing the wrong way for glory,” and that Jesus “has forgiven me.”
He has since described his actions as “premeditated, selfish, and evil.” And it’s safe to say that countless people agree.
After learning about John Lennon’s death, check out these surprising facts about John Lennon. Then, delve further into the mind of the former Beatle with this collection of surprisingly dark John Lennon quotes.