Mark David Chapman
|Mark David Chapman|
May 10, 1955 |
Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.
|Occupation||Porter and Law Library Clerk|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Criminal penalty||20 years to life|
|Criminal status||Incarcerated at Wende Correctional Facility|
|Spouse(s)||Gloria Abe (m. 1979)|
|Motive||Retaliation for blasphemy, Wanted instant notoriety|
|Conviction(s)||Second-degree murder of John Lennon|
Mark David Chapman (born May 10, 1955) is an American murderer who shot and killed John Lennon at the entrance to the Dakota apartment building in New York City on December 8, 1980. Chapman fired five times at Lennon, hitting him four times in the back, then sat down on a nearby curb and read J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye until he was arrested by the police. He has repeatedly said that written inside the novel was his statement.
Chapman's legal team intended to mount an insanity defense that would be based on expert testimony he was in a delusional psychotic state at the time of the killing. As the trial approached, Chapman instructed his lawyers he wanted to plead guilty, based on the assertion what he had decided was the will of God. After Chapman denied hearing voices, the judge allowed the plea change without further psychiatric assessment and sentenced him to a prison term of twenty-years-to life, with a stipulation mental health treatment would be provided. Chapman has been imprisoned ever since, having been denied parole nine times amidst campaigns against his release after he became eligible in 2000.
Chapman was born on May 10, 1955, in Fort Worth, Texas. His father, David Chapman, was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and his mother, Diane (née Pease), was a nurse. His younger sister, Susan, was born seven years later. As a boy, Chapman stated he lived in fear of his father, whom he said was physically abusive towards his mother and unloving towards him. Chapman began to fantasize about having king-like power over a group of imaginary "little people" who lived in the walls of his bedroom. He attended Columbia High School in Decatur, Georgia. By the time he was fourteen, Chapman was using drugs and skipping classes; he once ran away from home to live on the streets of Atlanta for two weeks. He said he was bullied at school because he was not a good athlete.
In 1971, Chapman became a born-again Presbyterian and distributed Biblical tracts. He met his first girlfriend, Jessica Blankenship. He began work as a summer camp counselor at the South De Kalb County, Georgia YMCA; he was very popular with the children, who nicknamed him "Nemo", and was made assistant director after winning an award for Outstanding Counselor. Those who knew him in the caretaking professions unanimously called him an outstanding worker.
Chapman read J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye on the recommendation of a friend. The novel eventually took on great personal significance for him, to the extent 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 night spots 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 Blankenship as a student at Covenant College, an evangelical Presbyterian liberal arts college 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 after just one semester and his girlfriend broke off their relationship soon after. Chapman returned to work at the resettlement camp, but left after an argument. He then worked as a security guard, eventually taking a week-long course to qualify as an armed guard. After dropping out of college, Chapman went to Hawaii, where he attempted suicide by carbon monoxide asphyxiation. He connected a hose to his car's exhaust pipe, but the hose melted and the attempt failed. A psychiatrist admitted Chapman to Castle Memorial Hospital for clinical depression. Upon his release, he began working at the hospital. After Chapman's parents began divorce proceedings, his mother joined him in Hawaii.
In 1978, Chapman went on a six-week trip around the world; the vacation was partly inspired by the film Around the World in Eighty Days. He visited 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, whom he married on June 2, 1979. Chapman went to work at Castle Memorial Hospital as a printer, working alone rather than with staff and patients. He was fired by the hospital, rehired, then got into a shouting match with a nurse and quit. Chapman then took a job as a night security guard and began drinking heavily. He developed a series of obsessions, including artwork, The Catcher in the Rye, music, and the musician John Lennon. In September 1980, he wrote a letter to a friend, Lynda Irish, in which he stated, "I'm going nuts." He signed the letter, "The Catcher in the Rye." Chapman had no criminal convictions prior to his trip to New York City to kill Lennon. After the murder, Chapman boasted that he'd been forgiven by Jesus for shooting Lennon.
Plan to murder John Lennon
Chapman, a Beatles fan who had idolized Lennon, allegedly started planning to kill him three months prior to the murder. Chapman played the guitar himself, but turned against Lennon after Chapman's religious conversion; he was angry about Lennon's 1966 well-publicized comment that Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." Some members of Chapman's prayer group made a joke in reference to Lennon's song "Imagine": "It went, 'Imagine, imagine if John Lennon was dead.'" Chapman's childhood friend Miles McManushe recalled he referred to the song as "communist." Jan Reeves, the sister of one of Chapman's best friends, reported Chapman "seemed really angry toward John Lennon and he kept saying he could not understand why John Lennon had said [the Beatles were more popular than Jesus]. According to Mark, there should be nobody more popular than the Lord Jesus Christ. He said it was blasphemy."
Chapman had also been influenced by reading in a library book, Anthony Fawcett's John Lennon: One Day at a Time, about Lennon's lifestyle in New York. According to his wife Gloria, "He was angry that Lennon would preach love and peace but yet [sic] have millions [of dollars]." Chapman later said, "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."
Chapman said he chose Lennon after seeing him on the cover of the Beatles' album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. He also recalled having listened to Lennon's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album in the weeks before the murder and has 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 ten 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 also said he had an alternate hit list of potential targets in mind, including David Bowie, Johnny Carson, Marlon Brando, Walter Cronkite, Elizabeth Taylor, George C. Scott and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, but Lennon seemed to be the easiest to find. He separately said Lennon particularly infatuated him. Chapman's planning has been described as "muddled." He went to New York in October 1980, intending to kill Lennon, but left in order to obtain ammunition from his unwitting friend in Atlanta, Dana Reeves, before returning in November.
After being inspired by the film Ordinary People, Chapman returned to Hawaii, telling his wife he had been obsessed with killing Lennon. He showed her the gun and bullets, but she did not inform the police or mental health services. Chapman made an appointment to see a clinical psychologist, but he did not keep the appointment and flew back to New York on December 6, 1980. At one point, he considered ending his life by jumping from the Statue of Liberty. Chapman says the message "Thou Shalt Not Kill" flashed on the television at him and was on a wall hanging his wife put up in their apartment. On the night before the murder, Chapman and his wife discussed on the phone about getting help with his problems by first working on his relationship with God.
On the day before the killing, 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." He also reportedly offered cocaine to a taxi driver. On the day of the murder, Bowie was appearing on Broadway in the play The Elephant Man. "I was second on his list," Bowie later said. "Chapman had a front-row ticket to The Elephant Man the next night. John and Yoko were supposed to sit front-row for that show too. So the night after John was killed there were three empty seats in the front row. I can't tell you how difficult that was to go on. I almost didn't make it through the performance."
Murder of John Lennon
On December 8, 1980, Chapman left his room at the Sheraton Hotel, leaving personal items behind 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." He then spent most of the day near the entrance to the Dakota apartment building where Lennon lived, talking to fans and the doorman. Early in the morning, a distracted Chapman missed seeing Lennon step out of a cab and enter the Dakota. Later in the morning, he met Lennon's housekeeper who was returning from a walk with their five-year-old son Sean. Chapman reached in front of the housekeeper to shake Sean's hand and said he was a beautiful boy, quoting Lennon's song "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)".
Around 5:00 p.m., Lennon and Ono left the Dakota for a recording session at Record Plant Studios. As they walked toward their limousine, Chapman shook hands with Lennon and asked for him to sign a copy of his album, Double Fantasy. Amateur photographer Paul Goresh took a photo of Lennon signing Chapman's album. In a later interview, Chapman said he tried to get Goresh to stay and he asked another Lennon fan who was lingering at the building's entrance to go out with him that night. He suggested if the girl had accepted his invitation or Goresh had stayed, he would not have murdered Lennon that evening, but he probably would have tried another day.
Around 10:50 p.m., Lennon and Ono returned to the Dakota in a limousine. They got out of the vehicle, passed Chapman and walked toward the archway entrance of the building. 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 shoulder, puncturing his left lung and left subclavian artery. At the time, one newspaper reported before Chapman fired, he softly called out "Mr. Lennon" and dropped into a combat stance. Chapman said he does not recall saying anything and Lennon did not turn around.
Chapman remained at the scene and appeared to be reading The Catcher in the Rye when the NYPD officers arrived and arrested him without incident. The first responders recognized Lennon's wounds were severe and decided not to wait for an ambulance. They rushed the mortally wounded musician to Roosevelt Hospital in a squad car, but nothing could be done to save him. Lennon was pronounced dead by Dr. Stephan Lynn at 11:07 p.m. In his statement to police three hours later, Chapman stated, "I'm sure the big part of me is Holden Caulfield, who is the main person in the book. The small part of me must be the Devil."
Chapman was charged with second degree murder. He told police he had used hollow-point bullets "because they are more deadly" and "to ensure Lennon's death". Gloria Chapman, who had known of her husband's preparations for killing Lennon but took no action, was not charged. Chapman later said he harbored a "deep-seated resentment" toward his wife, "that she didn't go to somebody, even the police, and say, 'Look, my husband's bought a gun and he says he's going to kill John Lennon'."
Mental state assessment
More than a dozen psychologists and psychiatrists interviewed Chapman in the six months prior to his planned trial—three for the prosecution, six for the defense, and several more on behalf of the court. A battery of standard diagnostic procedures and over 200 hours of clinical interviews were conducted. All six defense experts concluded Chapman was psychotic; five diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia, while the sixth felt his symptoms were more consistent with manic depression. The three prosecution experts declared his delusions fell short of psychosis and instead diagnosed various personality disorders. The court-appointed experts concurred with the prosecution's examiners he was delusional, yet competent to stand trial. In the examinations, Chapman was more cooperative with the prosecution's mental health experts than with those for the defense, possibly (according to one psychiatrist) because he did not wish to be considered "crazy", and persuaded himself the defense experts only declared him insane because they were hired to do so.
The Rev. Charles McGowan, who had been pastor of Chapman's church in Decatur, Georgia, visited Chapman as well, and told him of his conviction religion held the key to his crime. "I believe there was a demonic power at work," he said. Chapman initially embraced his old religion with new fervor as a result; but after McGowan revealed information to the press Chapman had told him in confidence, Chapman disavowed his renewed interest in Christianity and reverted to his initial explanation: he had killed Lennon to promote the reading of The Catcher in the Rye. When asked why it was so important for people to read the book, Chapman said he "didn't know" and "didn't really care either—that was not his job."
Chapman's first court-appointed lawyer, Herbert Adlerberg, withdrew from the case amid threats of lynching. Police feared Lennon fans might storm the hospital, so they transferred Chapman to Rikers Island for his personal safety.
At the initial hearing in January 1981, Chapman's new lawyer, Jonathan Marks, instructed him to enter 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 they were 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. In the pursuant hearing on June 22, Chapman said God had told him to plead guilty and he would not change his plea or ever appeal, regardless of his sentence. Marks told the court he opposed Chapman's change of plea but Chapman would not listen to him. Judge Dennis Edwards refused a further assessment, saying Chapman had made the decision of his own free will, and declared him competent to plead guilty.
On August 24, 1981, the sentencing hearing took place. Two experts gave evidence on Chapman's behalf. Judge Edwards interrupted Dorothy Lewis, a research psychiatrist who was relatively inexperienced in the courtroom, indicating the purpose of the hearing was to determine the sentence and there was no question of Chapman's criminal responsibility. Lewis had maintained Chapman's decision to change his plea did not appear reasonable or explicable, and she implied the judge did not want to allow an independent competency assessment. The district attorney argued Chapman committed the murder as an easy route to fame. When Chapman was asked if he had anything to say, he rose and read the 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 psychiatric treatment for Chapman during his incarceration and sentenced him to twenty-years-to-life, five years less than the maximum sentence of twenty-five-years-to-life. Chapman was given five years less than the maximum because he pleaded guilty to second degree murder, thereby avoiding the time and expense of a trial.
In 1981, Chapman was imprisoned at Attica Correctional Facility outside of Buffalo, New York. After he fasted for twenty six days in February 1982, the New York State Supreme Court authorized the state to force feed him. 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 was confined to a special handling unit (SHU) for violent and at-risk prisoners, in part due to concern he may be harmed by Lennon's fans in the general population. There were 105 prisoners in the building who were "not considered a threat to him," according to the New York State Department of Correctional Services. He had his own prison cell, but spent "most of his day outside his cell working on housekeeping and in the library."
Chapman worked in the prison as a legal clerk and kitchen helper. He was barred from participating in the Cephas Attica workshops, a charitable organization helping inmates adjust to life outside prison. He was also prohibited from attending the prison's violence and anger management classes due to concern for his safety. Chapman reportedly enjoys reading and writing short stories. At his parole board hearing in 2004, he described his plans; "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 he thought there was a possibility he could find work as a farmhand or return to his previous trade as a printer.
Chapman is in the Family Reunion Program, and is allowed one conjugal visit a year with his wife, since he accepted solitary confinement. The program allows him to spend up to forty-two hours alone with his wife in a specially built prison home. He also gets occasional visits from his sister, clergy, and a few friends. In 2004, James Flateau, a spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services, said Chapman had been involved in three "minor incidents" between 1989 and 1994 for delaying an inmate count and refusing to follow an order. On May 15, 2012, Chapman was transferred to the Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York, which is east of Buffalo.
Parole applications and campaigns
Chapman first became eligible for parole in 2000. Under New York state law, he is required to have a parole hearing every two years from that year onwards. Since that time, a three-member board has denied Chapman parole nine times. Shortly before Chapman's first hearing, Yoko Ono sent a letter to the board opposing his release from prison. In addition, New York State Senator Michael Nozzolio, chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, wrote to Parole Board Chairman Brion Travis saying: "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 said he was not a danger to society. The parole board concluded releasing Chapman 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 [his] notoriety." They noted although Chapman had a good disciplinary record while in prison, he had been in solitary confinement and did not 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 releasing Chapman after twenty-two years in prison would "deprecate the seriousness" of the crime, and while his behavioral record continued to be positive, it was no predictor of his potential community behavior.
- The parole board held a third hearing in 2004, and declined parole yet again. One of the reasons given by the board was Chapman had subjected Ono to "monumental suffering by her witnessing the crime." Another factor was concern for Chapman's safety; several Lennon fans threatened to kill him upon his release. Ono's letter opposing his release stated Chapman would not be safe outside of prison. The board reported its decision was based on the interview, a review of records and deliberation. By this time, approximately 6,000 people had signed an online petition opposing Chapman's release.
- In 2006, the parole board held a sixteen-minute hearing and concluded his release would not be in the best interest of the community or his own personal safety. On the twenty-sixth anniversary of Lennon's death, Ono published a one-page advertisement in several newspapers, saying December 8 should be a "day of forgiveness," and she was yet unsure if she was ready to forgive Chapman.
- Chapman's fifth hearing took place in 2008, but he was denied parole "due to concern for the public safety and welfare."
- In 2010, in advance of Chapman's scheduled sixth parole hearing, Ono said she would again oppose parole for Chapman stating her safety, that of John's sons, and Chapman's would be at risk. She added, "I am afraid it will bring back the nightmare, the chaos and confusion [of that night] once again." The parole board postponed the hearing in September, stating 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."
- Chapman's seventh parole hearing was held before a three-member board in 2012. The following day, the denial of his application was announced, with the board stating, "Despite your positive efforts while incarcerated, your release at this time would greatly undermine respect for the law and tend to trivialize the tragic loss of life which you caused as a result of this heinous, unprovoked, violent, cold and calculated crime."
- Chapman's eighth parole application was denied in 2014. At the hearing, Chapman said, "I am sorry for being such an idiot and choosing the wrong way for glory...I found my peace in Jesus. I know him. He loves me. He has forgiven me. He has helped in my life like you wouldn't believe." The board was unmoved, telling Chapman it believed "there is a reasonable probability that you would not live and remain at liberty without again violating the law."
- Chapman's ninth parole application was denied in 2016, at which Chapman said he now saw his crime as being "premeditated, selfish and evil."
- His next parole hearing is scheduled for August 2018.
Chapman refused all requests for interviews following the murder and during his first six years at Attica. 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 he regretted the interview. He later gave a series of audio-taped interviews to Jack Jones of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. In 1992, Jones published a book, Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman, the Man Who Killed John Lennon.
Also in 1992, Chapman gave two television interviews. On December 4, 1992, ABC's 20/20 aired an interview he gave to Barbara Walters, his first television interview since the shooting. On December 17, 1992, Larry King interviewed Chapman on his CNN program Larry King Live. 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.
Chapman's experiences during the weekend on which he committed the murder have been turned into a feature-length movie called Chapter 27, in which he is played by Jared Leto. The film was written and directed by Jarrett Schaefer and is based on Jones' book. 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 had a limited release in U.S. theaters in March 2008. Chapter 27 was released widely onto DVD on September 30, 2008. Another film, entitled The Killing of John Lennon starring Jonas Ball as Chapman, documents Chapman's life before and up to the murder. 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 Chapman in the murder or subsequent legal proceedings. Barrister and journalist Fenton Bresler raised the idea in a book published in 1990. Liverpool playwright Ian Carroll, who has staged a drama conveying the theory Chapman was manipulated by a rogue wing of the CIA, suggests he was not so insane he could not manage a long trip from Hawaii to New York shortly prior to the murder. Claims include Chapman was a "Manchurian candidate", including speculation on links to the CIA's Project MKULTRA. At least one author has argued 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 cover caricature of Chapman 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, citing events that took place outside the Dakota on the night of Lennon's murder. The title of the song comes from Chapman's own words.
Austin, Texas-based 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 Chapman's point of view.
Chapman's obsession with the central character and message of The Catcher in the Rye added to controversy about the novel. Some links have been drawn between Chapman and the book's themes of adolescent sensitivity and depression on the one hand, and anti-social and violent thoughts on the other. This connection was made in the play Six Degrees of Separation and its film adaptation by the character played by Will Smith.
Links have sometimes been drawn between Chapman's actions and those of other killers or attempted killers. John Hinckley, who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan less than four months after Lennon's murder, was also associated with The Catcher in the Rye. It has been said that Hinckley mourned Lennon's death. Furthermore, Hinckley's father, John Hinckley, Sr, was president of World Vision, for whom Chapman was employed. A writer who experienced mental illness in the same city as Jared Loughner has suggested examples such as Chapman's show the need to challenge stigma about mental health problems and ensure there are good community mental health services including crisis intervention.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Mark David Chapman|
- New York Department of Correctional Services inmate information page Chapman's DIN is 81-A-3860
- 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
- Mark David Chapman, The Catcher In The Rye, And The Killing of John Lennon John W. Whitehead, 2000