- Mark David Chapman
Mark David Chapman
NYPD mugshot of Chapman on December 9, 1980
Born May 10, 1955
Fort Worth, Texas, US
Conviction(s) Second degree murder of John Lennon Penalty 20 years to life Status Confined to Attica Correctional Facility Occupation Inmate Spouse Gloria Hiroko Abe
Parents David Curtis Chapman
Kathryn Elizabeth Pease
Mark David Chapman (born May 10, 1955) is an American prison inmate who murdered former Beatles member John Lennon on December 8, 1980. He committed the crime as Lennon and Yoko Ono were outside of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman aimed five shots at Lennon, hitting him four times in his back. He remained at the scene until the police arrested him, and pled guilty to the crime. He was sentenced to a prison term of 20 years to life, and is currently imprisoned at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, having been denied parole six times.
Early life and education
Chapman was born in Fort Worth, Texas. His father, David Curtis Chapman, was a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force, and his mother, Kathryn Elizabeth Pease, was a nurse. His younger sister, Susan, was born seven years later. He said that as a child he lived in fear of his father, who was physically abusive towards his mother and him. He also fantasized about having god-like power over a group of imaginary "little people." Chapman attended Columbia High School in Decatur, Georgia. By the time he was 14, he used drugs, skipped classes, and once ran away from home to live on the streets for two weeks. Chapman reported that he was bullied because he was not a good athlete. His favorite band was The Beatles. At the time, he was a user of marijuana, mescaline, LSD, cocaine, barbiturates and heroin.
In 1971, Chapman became a born again Christian, and distributed Biblical tracts. He met his first girlfriend, another Christian named Jessica Blankenship. He began work as a YMCA summer camp counselor; he was very popular with the children, who nicknamed him "Nemo". He won an award for Outstanding Counselor and was made assistant director. Those who knew him in the caretaking professions unanimously called him an outstanding worker. A friend recommended The Catcher in the Rye to Chapman, and the story eventually took on great personal significance for him, to the extent that he reportedly wished to model his life after its protagonist, Holden Caulfield. After graduating from Columbia High School, Chapman moved for a time to Chicago and played guitar in churches and Christian nightspots while his friend did impersonations. He worked successfully for World Vision  with Vietnamese refugees at a resettlement camp at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas, after a brief visit to Lebanon for the same work. He was named an area coordinator and a key aide to the program director, David Moore, who later said Chapman cared deeply for the children and worked hard. Chapman accompanied Moore to meetings with government officials, and President Gerald Ford shook his hand.
Chapman joined his girlfriend, Jessica Blankenship, as a student at Covenant College (an evangelical Presbyterian college that emphasizes the liberal arts) in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. However, Chapman fell behind in his studies and became obsessed with guilt over having an affair. He started having suicidal thoughts and began to feel like a failure. He dropped out of Covenant College, and his girlfriend broke off their relationship soon after. He returned to work at the resettlement camp, but left after an argument. Chapman then took a job as a security guard, eventually taking a week-long course that qualified him to be an armed guard. He made another attempt to go to college but dropped out again. He decided to go to Hawaii and then kill himself. In 1977, Chapman attempted suicide via carbon monoxide asphyxiation. He connected a vacuum cleaner hose to his car exhaust pipe and led it inside the car, thus exposing himself to the car's exhaust, but the hose melted in the exhaust pipe and the attempt failed. He was discovered and brought to a local mental health clinic. A psychiatrist admitted him to Castle Memorial Hospital for clinical depression. Upon his release, the hospital hired him part-time. He played guitar for the patients and counseled them. He found a place to live with a Presbyterian minister. His parents began divorce proceedings, and his mother joined Chapman in Hawaii.
In 1978, Chapman went on a six-week trip around the world, inspired partly by the film Around the World in Eighty Days, visiting such places as Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Delhi, Beirut, Geneva, London, Paris, and Dublin. He began a relationship with his travel agent, a Japanese-American woman named Gloria Abe. They married on June 2, 1979. Looking for more money, Chapman got a job at Castle Memorial Hospital as a printer, working alone rather than with staff and patients. He was fired by the Castle Memorial Hospital, rehired, then got into a shouting match with a nurse and quit. He took a job as a night security guard and began drinking heavily. Chapman developed a series of obsessions, including artwork, The Catcher in the Rye, music, and John Lennon, and started hearing voices again. In September 1980, he wrote a letter to a friend, Lynda Irish, in which he stated, "I'm going nuts", and signed it "The Catcher in the Rye".
The plan to murder John Lennon
Chapman went to New York in October 1980 planning to kill Lennon. He left the city for a short while in order to obtain ammunition from his unwitting friend Dana Reeves in Atlanta. He returned to New York in November, but after going to the cinema and being inspired by the film Ordinary People, he returned to Hawaii, telling his wife he had been obsessed with killing Lennon but had snapped out of it. He made an appointment to see a clinical psychologist but instead, on December 6, flew back to New York. He offered cocaine to a taxi driver. He reports having re-enacted scenes from The Catcher in the Rye.
On the day before the assassination Chapman accosted singer-songwriter James Taylor at the 72nd Street subway station. According to Taylor, "The guy had sort of pinned me to the wall and was glistening with maniacal sweat and talking some freak speak about what he was going to do and his stuff with how John was interested, and he was going to get in touch with John Lennon."
The murder of John Lennon
Chapman bought a copy of The Catcher in the Rye from a New York book store, in which he wrote "This is my statement" and signed it "Holden Caulfield", who is the protagonist of the novel. He then spent most of the day near the entrance to The Dakota apartment building where Lennon and Yoko Ono lived, talking to other fans and the doorman. At one point, a distracted Chapman missed seeing Lennon step out of a cab and enter the Dakota building on the morning of December 8. Late in the morning, Chapman met Lennon's housekeeper, who had just taken their five-year-old son Sean for a walk. Chapman reached in front of the housekeeper to shake Sean's hand and said that he is a beautiful boy, quoting Lennon's song "Beautiful Boy".
Around 5:00 pm, Lennon and Ono left The Dakota for a recording session at Record Plant Studios. As they walked toward their limousine on the curb, Chapman shook hands with Lennon and held out a copy of Lennon's new album, Double Fantasy, for him to sign. Photographer Paul Goresh was present when Lennon signed Chapman's album and took a photo of the event. Chapman reported that, "At that point my big part won and I wanted to go back to my hotel, but I couldn't. I waited until he came back. He knew where the ducks went in winter, and I needed to know this" (a reference to The Catcher in the Rye because it is what Holden wonders throughout the story).
Around 10:49 pm, the Lennons' limousine returned to the Dakota. At the curb, Lennon and Ono got out, passed by Chapman and walked toward the archway entrance of the building's courtyard. From the street behind them, Chapman fired five hollow point bullets from a .38 special revolver, four of which hit Lennon in the back and left shoulder. The death certificate officially gives the following description of the wounds and cause of death: "Multiple gunshot wounds of left shoulder and chest; Left lung and left subclavian artery; External and internal hemorrhage. Shock."
Chapman remained at the scene, took out his copy of The Catcher in the Rye and read it until the police arrived. The New York City Police Department officers who first responded to the shooting, recognizing that Lennon's wounds were severe, decided to transport him in their police car to Roosevelt Hospital. Chapman was arrested without incident. In his statement to police three hours later, Chapman stated, "I’m sure the large part of me is Holden Caulfield, who is the main person in the book. The small part of me must be the Devil." Lennon was pronounced dead at 11:07 pm at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center.
Trial and sentencing
Chapman was charged with second degree murder. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric examination. The conclusion was that, while delusional, he was competent to stand trial. Nine psychiatrists/clinical psychologists were prepared to testify at his trial – six of the clinical opinion that he was psychotic and three of the clinical opinion that his delusions fell short of the necessary criteria for psychosis. Lawyer Herbert Adlerberg was assigned to represent Chapman but, amid threats of lynching, withdrew. Police feared that Lennon fans might storm the hospital and they transferred Chapman to the Rikers Island jail.
At an initial hearing, in January 1981, Chapman's new lawyer, Jonathan Marks, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. In February, Chapman sent a handwritten statement to The New York Times, urging everyone to read The Catcher in the Rye, calling it an "extraordinary book that holds many answers." The defense team sought to establish witnesses as to Chapman's mental state at the time of the killing. It was reported that his defense team was confident he would be found not guilty by reason of insanity, in which case he would have been committed to a state mental hospital and received treatment. However, in June, Chapman told Marks he wanted to drop the insanity defense and plead guilty. Marks objected with "serious questions" over Chapman's sanity, and legally challenged his competence to make this decision, requesting a further assessment of his mental state. In the pursuant hearing on June 22, Chapman said God had told him to plead guilty and that he would not change his plea or ever appeal, regardless of his sentence. Marks told the court that he opposed Chapman's change of plea, but that Chapman would not listen to him. Judge Dennis Edwards refused a further assessment, said Chapman had made the decision of his own free will, and declared him competent to plead guilty.
On August 24, the sentencing hearing took place. Two psychiatrists gave evidence on Chapman's behalf. Judge Edwards interrupted the second psychiatrist, saying the purpose of the hearing was to determine the sentence and that there was no question of Chapman's criminal responsibility, drawing applause from the courtroom. The District Attorney said Chapman committed the murder as an easy route to fame. The defense lawyer said Chapman did not even appreciate why he was there. When Chapman was asked if he had anything to say, he rose and read a passage from The Catcher in the Rye, when Holden tells his little sister, Phoebe, what he wants to do with his life:
Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all.
The judge ordered that Chapman should receive psychiatric treatment in prison and sentenced him to 20 years to life, less than the maximum possible of 25 years to life.
Chapman is currently imprisoned in the Attica Correctional Facility, outside of Buffalo, New York. He fasted for 26 days in February 1982. After the New York State Supreme Court authorized the state to force feed him, Dr. Martin Von Holden, the director of the Central New York Psychiatric Center, said Chapman still refused to eat with other inmates but agreed to take liquid nutrients. Chapman has been confined within a Security Housing Unit (SHU) for violent and at-risk prisoners. There are 105 other prisoners in the building "who are not considered to pose a threat to him," according to the New York State Department of Correctional Services. He has his own prison cell, but "spends most of his day outside his cell working on housekeeping and in the library."
It is also reported that Chapman works in the prison as a legal clerk and kitchen helper, but otherwise his activities are severely curtailed. He was barred from participating in the Cephas Attica workshops, a charitable organization which helps inmates to adjust to life outside prison. He is also prohibited from attending the prison's violence and anger management classes due to concern for his safety. Chapman reportedly likes to read and write short stories. In his parole board hearing in 2004 he described his plans, if paroled, as follows: "I would immediately try to find a job, and I really want to go from place to place, at least in the state, church to church, and tell people what happened to me and point them the way to Christ." He also said that he thought that there was a possibility he could find work as a farmhand or return to his previous trade as a printer. The Daily Mirror reported he wanted to set up a church with his wife.
Chapman is on the Family Reunion Program, and is allowed one conjugal visit a year with his wife. The program allows him to spend up to 42 hours alone with his wife in a specially built prison home. He also gets occasional visits from his sister, clerics, and few friends. James Flateau, spokesman for the state Department of Correctional Services, said in 2004 that Chapman had been involved in three "minor incidents" between 1989 and 1994 for delaying an inmate count and refusing to follow an order.
Parole applications and campaigns
As a result of his sentence of 20 years to life in prison, Chapman first became eligible for parole in 2000 and, if denied, he is entitled to a hearing every two years. Chapman has been denied parole six times by a three-member board since then. Prior to his first hearing, Yoko Ono sent a letter to the board opposing the release of Chapman. In addition, State Senator Michael Nozzolio, chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, wrote to Parole Board Chairman Brion Travis saying that "It is the responsibility of the New York State Parole Board to ensure that public safety is protected from the release of dangerous criminals like Chapman."
At the 50-minute hearing in 2000, Chapman claimed that he was not a danger to society. The parole board concluded that releasing Chapman at that time would "deprecate the seriousness of the crime and serve to undermine respect for the law" and that Chapman's granting of media interviews represented a continued interest in "maintaining your notoriety." They noted that although Chapman had a "good disciplinary record" while in prison, he had been in the SHU and didn't access "anti-violence and/or anti-aggression programming." Robert Gangi, a lawyer for the Correctional Association of New York, said he thought it unlikely Chapman would ever be freed because the board would not risk the "political heat" of releasing Lennon's killer. In 2002, the parole board stated again that releasing Chapman after 22 years in prison would "deprecate the seriousness" of the crime, and that while his behavioral record continued to be positive, it was no predictor of his community behavior. The parole board held a third hearing in 2004, and reported that their decision was based on the interview, a review of records and deliberation. The board declined parole again. One of the reasons given by the board was having subjected Ono to "monumental suffering by her witnessing the crime." Around 6,000 people had signed an online petition against Chapman's release by this time. Lennon fans were threatening retribution if he were to be released.
In October 2006, the parole board held a 16-minute hearing and concluded that his release would not be in the best interest of the community or his own personal safety. On December 8, 2006, the 26th anniversary of Lennon's death, Yoko Ono published a one-page advertisement in several newspapers saying that, while December 8 should be a "day of forgiveness," she had not yet forgiven Chapman and was not sure if she was ready to yet. Chapman's fifth hearing was on August 12, 2008. He was again denied parole "due to concern for the public safety and welfare." On July 27, 2010, in advance of Chapman's scheduled sixth parole hearing, Ono said that she would again oppose parole for Chapman stating that her safety and that of John's sons would be at risk, as would Chapman's. She added "I am afraid it will bring back the nightmare, the chaos and confusion (of that night) once again." On August 11, 2010, the parole board postponed the hearing until September, stating that it was awaiting the receipt of additional information to complete Chapman's record. On September 7, the board denied Chapman's latest parole application, with the panel stating "release remains inappropriate at this time and incompatible with the welfare of the community."
Motivation and mental health
It has been suggested that, as a young boy, Chapman was "very sensitive and that his parents' anger towards each other intruded upon his normal development. He retreated from a very early age into a fantasy world." Chapman had also read in a library book (John Lennon: One Day at a Time by Anthony Fawcett) about Lennon's life in New York. "He was angry that Lennon would preach love and peace but yet have millions [of dollars]," said his wife Gloria. Chapman later said that "He told us to imagine no possessions, and there he was, with millions of dollars and yachts and farms and country estates, laughing at people like me who had believed the lies and bought the records and built a big part of their lives around his music."
At some point, Chapman became obsessed with The Catcher in the Rye after rereading it for the first time since high school. He was particularly influenced by protagonist Holden Caulfield's polemics against "phoniness" in society, and the need to protect people, especially children. He was holding a copy of the book when he murdered Lennon, in which he had written "This is my statement." After his arrest, he wrote a letter to the media urging everyone to read the "extraordinary book" that may "help many to understand what has happened." When asked if he wanted to address the court at his sentencing, Chapman read a passage from The Catcher in the Rye that describes Holden Caulfield's fantasy of being on the edge of a cliff and having to catch all children from falling. A psychiatrist at the sentencing, Daniel W. Schwartz, said that Chapman wanted to kill Lennon because he viewed him as a "phony." Chapman later said that he thought the murder would turn him into a Holden Caulfield, a "quasi-savior" and "guardian angel."
Chapman recalls having listened to Lennon's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album in the weeks before the murder and stated: "I would listen to this music and I would get angry at him, for saying that he didn't believe in God... and that he didn't believe in the Beatles. This was another thing that angered me, even though this record had been done at least 10 years previously. I just wanted to scream out loud, 'Who does he think he is, saying these things about God and heaven and the Beatles?' Saying that he doesn't believe in Jesus and things like that. At that point, my mind was going through a total blackness of anger and rage. So I brought the Lennon book home, into this The Catcher in the Rye milieu where my mindset is Holden Caulfield and anti-phoniness." Chapman later stated that, while Holden was not violent, he did "have a violent thought of shooting someone, of emptying a revolver into this fellow's stomach, someone that had done him wrong" despite being "a very sensitive person and he probably would not have killed anybody as I did. But that's fiction and reality was standing in front [of] the Dakota." He further said, "So the child and the adult conspired together to kill the phony. Then the child and the adult went to the Dakota on the morning of December 8. The adult, very charming, knows his way around-even invited one of the fans to lunch across the street-the child, frightened, alternately praying to God and the devil to get him out of this. The adult was praying to God. He was a fake adult, but he was scared and he knew that the child was about to do something very evil and wrong. The child was praying to the devil and the adult was praying to the Lord. The spiritual dichotomy: Devil-God. And the inner dichotomy: the child-the man. They're out there in front of the Dakota late one night.'"
Following the murder, Chapman underwent dozens of assessments by different psychiatrists. He described his anger toward his father, who he said used to hit his mother. He spoke of his identification with Holden Caulfield and with Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, and his conferences with the "Little People," an imaginary set of people with whom he interacted and from whom he took guidance. He also provided a list of other celebrities he had thought about killing. Chapman later told journalist Jack Jones that he had told his "Little People" he intended to go to New York and kill Lennon and they begged him not to, saying "Please, think of your wife. Please, Mr. President. Think of your mother. Think of yourself." Chapman says he told them his mind was made up, and that their reaction was silence.
Chapman also said that, while in New York, he had thought of leaping to his death from the Statue of Liberty. Overall the psychiatrists concluded that, while delusional, he was competent to stand trial. However, six were prepared to testify for the defense that Chapman was psychotic. The prosecution presented three psychiatrists who said that Chapman fell short of full psychosis. Chapman has since said he thinks he was suffering from schizophrenia, a diagnosis made by some in his pre-sentencing psychiatric assessments. Journalist Jack Jones has referred to him as a sociopath.
Chapman stated to his parole board hearing in 2000 that "I feel that I see John Lennon now not as a celebrity. I did then. I saw him as a cardboard cutout on an album cover. I was very young and stupid, and you get caught up in the media and the records and the music. And now I've come to grips with the fact that John Lennon was a person. This has nothing to do with being a Beatle or a celebrity or famous."
In his 2006 parole board hearing, when asked if he murdered Lennon to become famous, Chapman said "The result would be that I would be famous, the result would be that my life would change and I would receive a tremendous amount of attention, which I did receive... I was in a very confused, dark place. I was looking for reasons to vent all that anger and confusion and low self esteem." He stated that "I believe that if I really wanted to, I could have changed my mind; I had ample opportunity to do it and I didn't do it and I regret that deeply."
Following the murder, and for the first six years in Attica, Chapman refused all requests for interviews. James R. Gaines interviewed him and wrote a three-part, 18,000-word People magazine series in February and March 1987. Chapman told the parole board it was an interview "which I regret." Chapman later gave a series of interviews to Jack Jones of the Rochester, New York-based Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. In 1992 Jones published a book, Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman, the Man Who Killed John Lennon. In 2000, with his first parole hearing approaching, Jones asked Chapman to tell his story for Mugshots, a CourtTV program. Chapman refused to go on camera but, after praying over it, consented to tell his story in a series of audiotapes. He told the parole board that the program "took a lot out of context, but that's okay." and that "Those three hours later were really great, because I was able really—it was like a confession almost. I was able to accept my responsibility in this for probably the first real time, and I told him I didn't deserve anything."
Chapman's experiences during the weekend on which he committed the murder have been turned in to a feature-length movie called Chapter 27, in which he was played by Jared Leto. The film's title is a reference to The Catcher in the Rye, which has 26 chapters. Chapter 27 premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2007 and received generally mixed reviews. The film had a limited release in theaters in the United States in March 2008. Chapter 27 was released widely onto DVD on September 30, 2008. Another film was made before the feature film entitled The Killing of John Lennon starring Jonas Ball as Chapman, which documents Chapman's life three months before and up to the murder and portrays Chapman in a somewhat sympathetic light. The film features Ball as Chapman narrating the film and states that all the words are Chapman's own.
A number of conspiracy theories have been published, based on CIA and FBI surveillance of Lennon due to his left-wing activism, and on the actions of Mark Chapman in the murder and subsequent legal proceedings. One author even argues that forensic evidence proves Chapman did not commit the murder.
In 1982, Rhino Records released a compilation of Beatles-related novelty and parody songs, called Beatlesongs. It featured a caricature of Chapman on the cover which was drawn by William Stout. Following its release, Rhino recalled the record and replaced it with another cover. New York based band Mindless Self Indulgence released a track entitled "Mark David Chapman" on their album If. Irish band The Cranberries recorded a song called "I Just Shot John Lennon," for their 1996 album To the Faithful Departed. It cites the events that took place outside the Dakota on the night of Lennon's murder. The title of the song comes from the words said by Chapman that evening.
Austin, TX art rock band ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead have also released a song called "Mark David Chapman" from their 1999 album Madonna. Julian Cope's 1988 album Autogeddon contains a song called "Don't Call Me Mark Chapman" whose lyrics suggest it is told from the point of view of Lennon's murderer. Filipino band Rivermaya released a song called "Hangman (I Shot the Walrus)" on their album Atomic Bomb (1997), supposedly written from Mark Chapman's point of view.
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- ^ Salvador Astrucia (2006) "Rethinking John Lennon's Assassination- the FBI's War on Rock Stars" Ravening Wolf Publishing Company ISBN 0-9744882-1-6
- ^ "The Rhino Controversy". http://www.rutlemania.org/lean3.html. Retrieved 2009-11-08.
- ^ now to post a comment! (2009-05-20). "Rivermaya│Hangman [I Shot The Walrus". YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLONKBN5u8E. Retrieved 2011-09-09.
- Chapman's New York Department of Correctional Services inmate information page
- Article on Mark Chapman which argues that he killed for fame (BBC)
- BBC News report with actual news footage from the time on right hand side of page
- Crime Library article on Chapman
- Court TV News "in-depth" section on Chapman
John Lennon Studio albums With Yoko Ono Live albums Compilations SoundtracksImagine: John Lennon · The U.S. vs. John Lennon Box sets Books FilmsHow I Won the War (1967) · Two Virgins (1968) · No. 5 (1968) · Honeymoon (1969) · Freedom (1970) · Fly (1970) · Legs (1970) · Apotheosis (1970) · Erection (1971) · Imagine (1972) · Dynamite Chicken (1972) · Oh! Calcutta! (1972) · John and Yoko: A Love Story (1985) · Imagine: John Lennon (1988) · In His Life: The John Lennon Story (2000) · The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006) · The Killing of John Lennon (2006) · Chapter 27 (2007) · I Met the Walrus (2007) · Nowhere Boy (2009) · Lennon Naked (2010) Family RelatedPeopleMediaThe Lost Lennon Tapes · Come Together: A Night for John Lennon's Words and Music (concert) · ROOTS: John Lennon Sings The Great Rock & Roll Hits · Pussy Cats · Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon · Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur · The 30th Annual John Lennon Tribute: Live from the Beacon Theatre, NYC · A Toot and a Snore in '74 · Lennon (musical) · Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon (DVD) · The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll CircusArticles
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