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40 Years Later: John Lennon’s Assassin Mark David Chapman Denied Parole

Mark David Chapman in 2010.  (Photo by Kypros/Getty Images)
Mark David Chapman in 2010. (Photo by Kypros/Getty Images)

Mark David Chapman, who shot John Lennon 40 years ago, has been denied parole for the 11th time. Now 65, he will remain at New York’s Wende Correctional Facility, where he’s serving a 20 year to life sentence. The Guardian reports that “detailed reasons” for the refusal “have not been given.”

Fox News refers to its 2018 coverage of Chapman’s previous parole hearing. They write, “In its decision, the state Board of Parole said releasing Chapman would not only ‘tend to mitigate the seriousness’ of his crime, but also would endanger public safety because someone might try to harm him out of anger, revenge or to become famous.”

It was this kind of notoriety that Chapman sought when he attacked Lennon outside the Dakota Building in Manhattan on December 8th, 1980. A young man from Fort Worth Texas, Chapman met Lennon earlier that day when the former Beatle signed a copy of album ‘Double-Fantasy’. This encounter was photographed. The release was a comeback for Lennon, who’d taken a few years out from the music scene.

Mark David Chapman
Mark David Chapman Photo by Brooklein (Müzakirə | Fəaliyyətlər) CC BY SA 3.0

Wielding a .38-caliber revolver, Chapman shot Lennon 4 times. John was taken to Roosevelt Hospital but passed away aged 40. There followed a week long mass vigil outside the Dakota, together with outpourings of grief from around the world.

Lennon’s former bandmate Sir Paul McCartney recalled his reaction in 2014, on ‘The Jonathan Ross Show’. “It was just so horrific… I couldn’t take it in… For me it was just so sad that I wasn’t going to see him again and we weren’t going to hang.” Lennon and McCartney resolved their differences beforehand. The latter said it “would have been the worst thing in the world” had Lennon died without that happening.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono
John Lennon and Yoko Ono in bed in Amsterdam, 1969

The perpetrator waited for police to arrive and was reportedly found reading ‘The Catcher In The Rye’ by J.D. Salinger. “Psychiatrists deemed Chapman a borderline psychotic” writes “He was instructed to plead insanity, but instead he pleaded guilty to murder.”

Speaking at his hearing in 2018, Chapman “claimed he had been going through an internal ‘tug of war’ on whether to go ahead with the shooting. ‘I was too far in,’ Chapman told the board. ‘I do remember having the thought of, ‘Hey, you… 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.’” His words are part of a transcript, covered here by Fox News.

Over time Chapman appears to have accepted the severity of his actions and the devastation they caused. “Thirty years ago I couldn’t say I felt shame and I know what shame is now” he said in 2018.

Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono has consistently opposed the parole of Mark David Chapman. Reports say Chapman and wife Gloria wrote Ono a letter asking her to forgive him. Chapman is “devoted to promoting the transformative power of Jesus” according to Fox News.

Ono remains firm in her position. The Guardian writes she “submitted comments to the parole board that were ‘consistent with the prior letters’, according to her lawyer Jonas Herbsman.”

“One thing I think is that he did it once, he could do it again, to somebody else” she revealed in a 2015 interview with The Daily Beast. Ono kept living in the Dakota, telling The Daily Beast “I would feel very strange if I had to leave this apartment. There are so many things that he touched here that he loved.” They lived there together for 7 years before Lennon’s demise.

Related Article: John Lennon’s Biggest Fear and the One Time he Complimented a Paul Song

The 19th century building has a reputation for the spooky. Business Insider wrote in 2015 that “according to the New York Post’s Page Six (Ono) saw her husband’s ghost sitting at his white piano. She says he told her, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am still with you.’” Lennon also claimed to have seen a ghost during his time at the Dakota.

Chapman is eligible for parole again in 2 years.

Steve is a writer and comedian from the UK. He’s a contributor to both The Vintage News and The Hollywood News and has created content for many other websites. His short fiction has been published by Obverse Books.