The man who shot and killed John Lennon outside his New York City apartment on December 8, 1980, has been denied parole by a prison board that concluded releasing Mark David Chapman “would be incompatible with the welfare and safety of society and would so deprecate the serious nature of the crime as to undermine respect for the law.”
Chapman, now 63 years old, is serving a sentence of 20 years to life in the Wende Correctional Facility in western New York State. This is his tenth denial.
“You admittedly carefully planned and executed the murder of a world-famous person for no reason other than to gain notoriety,” the parole panel wrote in its decision.
“While no one person’s life is any more valuable than another’s life, the fact that you chose someone who was not only a world renown person and beloved by millions, regardless of the pain and suffering you would cause to his family, friends and so many others, you demonstrated a callous disregard for the sanctity of human life and the pain and suffering of others.”
As Chapman prepared to face the parole panel on August 22, 2018, politicians and many fans called for his parole to be denied during a rally held at Strawberry Fields in Central Park across from his former home, the Dakota apartments.
Jonas Herbsman, the attorney for Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, declined to comment when contacted by the Associated Press.
Ono was with Lennon outside the Dakota apartment building as they returned home after an evening recording session.
Chapman had stalked Lennon in New York for several days before shooting him. Ono said later she glimpsed a stranger standing in the shadows of the building entrance after they were dropped off by a limousine. She nodded at him and kept walking, a few paces ahead of her husband.
Cop Who Tried To Save John Lennon’s Life Opens Up
A voice called out, “Mr. Lennon?” The musician turned toward the voice, probably believing he was a fan. Chapman went down on one knee in a combat stance, and shot him five times, in his back, side, and shoulder with a .38. Chapman then sat down on the curb and opened his copy of the book The Catcher in the Rye.
John Lennon, age 40, was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital at 11:07 p.m.
Chapman later said he shot Lennon because he wanted to “steal” his fame and that he planned the murder for three months.
In court, Chapman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1981. Before his plea was entered, his attorneys wanted to lodge an insanity defense. Psychiatrists who examined him concluded Chapman was psychotic, possibly schizophrenic.
He had been hospitalized for clinical depression years before the murder. He also said as a born-again Christian, he was offended by Lennon’s statements about religion.
In 1981, Chapman was sent to Attica, where he refused to eat. The prison officials obtained a court order to force-feed him. He was transferred to Wende in 2012.
According to Time magazine, “At previous hearings, Chapman has said he still gets letters about the pain he caused and was sorry for choosing the wrong path to fame.”
Lennon’s murder caused lasting trauma to his family and friends and to the many admirers of the former Beatle. The public first learned of his death late that night, after the Associated Press newswire released the story at 11:25 pm: “There’s a report that John Lennon has been shot.” Many people heard the news from broadcaster Howard Cosell, who broke into ABC’s Monday Night Football to tell America of the “unspeakable tragedy.”
On December 14 of that year, some 100,000 people gathered in Central Park and tens of thousands of others in cities around the world. At least three Beatles fans committed suicide in the weeks following the murder, leading Ono to plead with the public not to despair.
In 1985, New York City dedicated a section of Central Park to the musician, and many people pay tribute to his life and music at Strawberry Fields to this day.
Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com.