Who Is Mark David Chapman?
Mark David Chapman endured a troubled childhood before becoming a born-again Christian. He shot and killed John Lennon outside of the iconic musician's Manhattan apartment building on December 8, 1980, claiming he did so because of the ex-Beatle's immense fame. Sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, Chapman has since been denied parole multiple times.
Chapman was born on May 10, 1955, in Fort Worth, Texas, to a U.S. Air Force sergeant and a nurse. Following a troubled childhood and early experimentation with drug use, he became a born-again Christian at age 16.
After moving to Hawaii in 1977, Chapman attempted to commit suicide. He later found work as a security guard, and in 1979 he married a travel agent named Gloria Abe.
Killing John Lennon
In 1980, Lennon released the album Double Fantasy, his first record release in years, bringing the ex-Beatle out of seclusion and putting him back in the spotlight. On December 6, 1980, Chapman purchased Double Fantasy at a New York record store.
Two days later, with the album in hand, Chapman waited outside the Dakota, Lennon's posh Manhattan apartment building. He watched as Lennon exited the building at approximately 5:50 p.m., on his way to a recording session, and walked toward his limo. A smiling Lennon generously agreed to autograph the album for Chapman while an amateur photographer clicked a photograph. Chapman then, strangely, placed his newly autographed album atop a nearby planter.
Around 10:30 that evening, Lennon returned home in his limo. Chapman was waiting. This time, he was after much more than an autograph. As Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, left the car, Chapman raised his gun and fired several shots at the musician, hitting him four times in the back and shoulder. Ono, who was standing next to her husband, witnessed the incident. Lennon was pronounced dead just one hour later, at nearby Roosevelt Hospital.
When New York City police officers arrived at the scene, they discovered Chapman casually thumbing through a copy of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. The following day, the world grieved for Lennon. A vigil was held outside of the Dakota, drawing thousands of anguished fans.
Trial and Conviction
During Chapman's trial, much attention was paid to his psychiatric state. His lawyer initially entered a plea of insanity, which Chapman later overturned with a guilty plea. His autographed album was a key piece of evidence in the case. Chapman told the jury that he had been living in Hawaii and working as a security guard when he decided to kill Lennon, "because he was very famous." Chapman was found guilty of murder, sentenced to 20 years to life in prison and ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment.
After more than three decades at the Wende Correctional Facility in New York, in August 2012, Chapman entered his seventh parole hearing. He was denied parole yet again and ordered to remain at Wende. During the hearing, Chapman told the parole board that he was ashamed of committing murder. "So this is obviously very embarrassing for me now, having committed murder," he said, according to NBC News. He also stated that he had considered killing Johnny Carson or George C. Scott instead of Lennon, but chose the former Beatle star because he was the most famous. "If [Lennon] was less famous than three or four other people on the list, he would not have been shot," Chapman said.
Chapman was denied parole for the eighth time in 2014, and for the tenth time in 2018. "The panel has determined that your release would be incompatible with the welfare and safety of society," wrote the state Board of Parole in a letter explaining their reasoning that year.
He remains married to Abe, who makes the 5,000-mile flight from Hawaii to visit. Abe has noted that she hopes Ono will be able to forgive her husband.
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