Mark David Chapman is an American murderer who is serving twenty-years-to-life prison sentence for killing musician and former Beatles member John Lennon in front of his apartment building in New York City in December 1980. A fan of the celebrated musician, he became furious after Lennon claimed that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. He planned the murder for months, often having conflicted thoughts, and even tried to alert his wife about his intentions and considered seeking medical help. Chapman, who was subjected to bullying at school, suffered from depression and used to paint a larger than life picture of himself in his loneliness. He gave in to drugs and even made a failed suicide attempt once. He eventually turned to God and for a while led a decent life as a summer camp counselor for children and later as a volunteer for YMCA. However, he suffered from guilt inside, which led to obsession about artworks, music, the book 'The Catcher in the Rye', and finally Lennon's murder.
Childhood & Early Life
Mark David Chapman was born on May 10, 1955, in Fort Worth, Texas, to David Chapman, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, and Diane Chapman, a nurse. He is the elder of his parents' two children and has a sister named Susan.
His father taught him to play the guitar, and also bought for him the first Beatles album, 'Meet the Beatles', which made him a devoted fan of the band. According to his mother, he was a happy child and despite his father's repeated transfers, would easily make friends in new neighborhoods.
However, he later revealed that he was bullied at Columbia High School in Decatur, Georgia, because of his poor athleticism, and began to feel like a misfit when he was in third or fourth grade. He felt alienated both from his "dreamish…moody" mother and his "shy, reclusive" father, who would often get violent, as if to vent his emotions.
During this time, he often imagined himself to be the king of a group of imaginary "little people" who inhabited the walls of his bedroom. He often skipped classes, began taking drugs at the age of 14, and once ran away from home, spending two weeks on the streets of Atlanta.
He was taken in by the police following a harrowing LSD trip, and after spending a night in jail, was picked up by his father, whom he saw crying for the first time that day. Finally, in 1971, during a visit to his grandmother in Florida, he felt betrayed by his so-called friends, and turned to God out of desperation and became a born-again Presbyterian who began distributing Biblical tracts.
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Mark David Chapman, who had been a dedicated volunteer at the South De Kalb County, Georgia YMCA, since his senior year at school, became a counselor there at the age of 17. He was voted the best counselor for four years since 1972, and was promoted to assistant director position two years later.
He was assigned to Beirut, Lebanon in 1975, but after civil war broke out there two weeks later, he was reassigned to a Vietnamese refugee camp at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. He returned to YMCA as the assistant director in the next summer, but left within a month following an argument with the swimming director.
He next began working as an unarmed security guard in the Atlanta airport at the suggestion of his friend Dana Reeves. He later took a week-long course to qualify as an armed guard, and was posted at DeKalb General Hospital outside Atlanta.
Inspired by the film 'Around the World in Eighty Days', he went on a six-week-long trip around the world in 1978, visiting Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Delhi, Beirut, Geneva, London, Paris and Dublin. He later began working as a printer at Castle Memorial Hospital, where he was fired once before quitting the job following an altercation with a nurse.
Mark David Chapman became romantically involved with Jessica Blankenship, a friend from fundamentalist prayer groups, in mid-1975. In December that year, they enrolled at Covenant College, Georgia, but broke up later as he began to feel guilty and suicidal.
In 1978, he got involved with his Japanese-American travel agent, Gloria Abe, whom he married on June 2, 1979. He later mentioned that he harbored a "deep-seated resentment" towards his wife because she did not try to stop him despite knowing about his intentions to kill Lennon.
Murder of John Lennon
Following his religious conversion, Mark David Chapman became particularly angered about Lennon's comment that Beatles were "more popular than Jesus". Reading the book 'John Lennon: One Day at a Time' by Anthony Fawcett, he became furious about the star's million-dollar lifestyle with "yachts and farms and country estates" while preaching love and peace.
Weeks before the murder, he also listened to Lennon's debut solo album post Beatles' split, 'John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band', in which he mentioned he didn't believe in God or the Beatles. In the meantime, following the recommendation of a friend, he read J.D. Salinger's 'The Catcher in the Rye', and became obsessed with the book's protagonist, Holden Caulfield, often imagining himself as Caulfield.
He went to New York to kill Lennon in October 1980, but came back later to get ammunitions, and also informed his wife about his intentions, but she did not take any actions. Conflicted within himself, he had made an appointment with a psychologist, but eventually skipped it and returned to New York in November to continue with his plan.
On December 8, 1980, he spent most of the day waiting outside the Dakota apartment, where Lennon lived, but missed him when he returned there in the morning. As Lennon and his wife Ono headed out for a recording session, Chapman shook his hands and got one of his albums autographed.
When they returned later that night, he shot five hollow-point bullets from a .38 special revolver at Lennon from the behind, hitting him four times and fatally injuring him. Chapman did not attempt to flee the scene of the crime; instead, he began reading 'The Catcher in the Rye' until he was arrested by the police soon after.
Mark David Chapman was charged with second degree murder for his crimes, but his wife, who knew about his plans and did nothing to stop him, was not charged. Despite being instructed by his lawyer to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, he decided to drop the insanity defense and pleaded guilty, mentioning that God had instructed him to do so.
Because he pleaded guilty, cutting the trial short, Judge Dennis Edwards sentenced him to a prison term of twenty-years-to-life, five years less than the maximum sentence of twenty-five-years-to-life. He was imprisoned at Attica Correctional Facility outside of Buffalo, New York, in 1982, and spent his time working in the kitchen, housekeeping section, library, and as a legal clerk.
Since becoming eligible for parole in 2000, he has been denied parole nine times by a three-member board. However, he is allowed one conjugal visit of up to 42 hours a year with his wife in a specially built prison home.