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Mark David CHAPMAN


Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Angry that Lennon would preach love and peace but yet have millions of dollars
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 8, 1980
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: May 10, 1955
Victim profile: Former Beatles member John Lennon, 40
Method of murder: Shooting (Charter Arms .38 Special revolver)
Location: Manhattan, New York, USA
Status: Sentenced to 20 years to life in prison in August 1981

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Mark David Chapman (born May 10, 1955 in Fort Worth, Texas) is the man who shot and killed musician John Lennon on December 8, 1980. He remained at the scene until arrested and claimed the book The Catcher in the Rye would explain his perspective and motivation.

Chapman was allowed to plead guilty to second degree murder before his trial began and, despite being assessed as delusional and possibly psychotic, was sentenced to 20 years to life. He has been denied parole four times amid campaigns against his release, and remains incarcerated at Attica Correctional Facility.

Early life

Chapman was born in Fort Worth, Texas, the oldest child of David Curtis Chapman, a staff sergeant in the Air Force, and Diane Elizabeth Pease, a nurse. Shortly after his birth, they moved to Atlanta. His sister, Susan, was born when he was seven. He reported that he lived in dread of his father, who would beat his mother, and that "I'd wake up hearing my mother screaming my name, and it just scared the fire out of me, and I'd run in there and make him go away. Sometimes I think I actually pushed him away."

He reports having fantasized about getting a gun and killing his father. He was considered a normal boy, and his IQ was assessed as above average. Despite this, he described his childhood to psychiatrists as "unhappy," noting that he was the type of child that was often picked on by other boys. As a result, he relied much on imaginary people for entertainment.

He later told journalist Jack Jones "I used to fantasize that I was a king, and I had all these Little People around me and that they lived in the walls. And that I was their hero and was in the paper every day and I was on TV every day, their TV, and that I was important. They all kind of worshiped me, you know. It was like I could do no wrong." and "sometimes when I'd get mad I'd blow some of them up. I'd have this push-button thing, part of the [sofa], and I'd like get mad and blow out part of the wall and a lot of them would die. But the people would still forgive me for that, and, you know, everything got back to normal. That's a fantasy I had for many years."

In his first two years of high school, Chapman was a drug user who would sometimes skip school and once ran away to live on the streets for two weeks.

Chapman reported that he was bullied and that he was not a good athlete. His favorite band was The Beatles. He began work as a YMCA summer camp counselor, where he was very popular among the children, who nicknamed him 'Nemo'. He won an award for Outstanding Counselor and was made assistant director. The executive director of his branch said, "If there ever was a person who had the potential for doing good, it was Mark."

Chapman played guitar. Chapman made two brief attempts at college, including Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, but dropped out. He was fired from several jobs. Later he worked successfully with the YMCA with Vietnamese refugees at a resettlement camp at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas (after a brief visit to Lebanon on the same work). He was named an area coordinator and a key aide to David Moore, the program director.

In 1980, Moore told reporters "He was really caring with the refugees and he worked his tail off to do everything exactly right. He was a super kid." It is reported that Chapman accompanied Moore to meetings with government officials, and that President Gerald Ford shook his hand.

Chapman later joined his girlfriend, Jessica Blankenship, as a student at Covenant College, a strict Presbyterian university. However, Chapman fell behind in his studies and career, became obsessed with guilt over having an affair, and sank in to a deep depression. He returned to work at the resettlement camp but left after an argument. He took a job as a security guard, at first unarmed but then he took a week-long course that qualified him as an armed guard. He left home after arguing with his parents and lived at the YMCA or on the streets, spending money on short trips to Hawaii.

In 1977 he attempted suicide by gassing himself inside his car, but the vacuum cleaner hose melted in the exhaust pipe and he was discovered. He was hospitalized for mental illness. On his release, the hospital hired him part-time. His supervisor reported: "All the patients, especially the older ones that nobody else would talk to, just loved that boy, and I can't say enough good about him."

A friend of Chapman recommended The Catcher in the Rye to Chapman, and the story took on great personal significance for him, to the extent that he reportedly wished to model his life after its protagonist, Holden Caulfield.

Chapman went on a trip around Far Eastern countries. He began a relationship with a travel agent, a Japanese-American woman named Gloria Abe. They married on 2 June 1979. He started work as a solitary printer, but left after arguing with his hospital employers. He developed obsessions, and got into debt. He later said that he started to hear the voices of the 'Little People' again around this time. In September 1980 he wrote a letter to a friend, Lynda Irish, saying "I'm going nuts", signed "The Catcher in the Rye".

Murder of John Lennon

Chapman went to New York in October 1980 planning to kill Lennon but left to obtain ammunition from his unwitting friend Dana Reeves in Atlanta. He returned to New York in November but reports that, 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. On December 6, he flew back to New York. He reports having reenacted some fictional events from Holden Caulfield's stay in New York in The Catcher in the Rye.

On the morning of December 8, 1980, having left personal items in his hotel room for police to find, Chapman bought a copy of The Catcher in the Rye from a New York bookstore, in which he wrote "This is my statement", and signed "The Catcher in the Rye". He then spent most of the day near the entrance to The Dakota apartment building where Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono lived, talking to other fans and the doorman.

At one point, a distracted Chapman missed seeing John Lennon step out of a cab and enter the Dakota building on the morning of December 8. Late in the morning, Chapman met the Lennons' housekeeper, who had just taken their five-year-old son Sean for a walk. Chapman conversed with the housekeeper and patted Sean on the head as they departed.

Around 5:00 p.m., John and Yoko left The Dakota for a recording session at Record Plant Studios. As they walked towards 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.[7] 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)."

Around 10:50 p.m., the Lennons' limousine returned to the Dakota. Lennon and Ono passed by Chapman and walked towards the archway entrance of the building's courtyard. From the street, Chapman turned and fired five hollow point bullets from a Charter Arms .38 revolver that he had purchased in Hawaii, four of which hit Lennon's back and shoulder. One of the bullets pierced Lennon's aorta, causing severe blood loss by aortic dissection. It has been suggested that, before firing, Chapman called out "Mr. Lennon!" and dropped into a "combat stance", but this is not stated in court hearings or interviews.

Chapman remained at the scene, taking out his copy of The Catcher in the Rye and trying to read it, until the police arrived. The New York Police Department officers who first responded to the shooting recognized that Lennon's wounds were severe, and so they 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 declared dead at 11:20 p.m. after losing more than 80% of his blood.

Testimony and sentencing

Chapman was charged with second degree murder. At an initial hearing, in January 1981, Chapman's lawyer Jonathan Marks entered a plea of "not guilty, by reason of insanity". His defense team sought to establish his mental state at the time, and Chapman was interviewed for hundreds of hours by psychiatrists.

Nine were prepared to testify at his trial – six of the clinical opinion that he was psychotic and three of the clinical opinion that he fell short of the necessary criteria for psychosis. It is 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 strenuously objected with "serious questions" over Chapman's sanity, and legally challenged his competence to make this decision.

During a further assessment, psychiatrists concluded that Chapman was delusional but competent. In the pursuant hearing, Chapman said God had told him to plead guilty, and that he wouldn't change his plea regardless of his sentence. Judge Dennis Edwards declared him fit to plead.

In August, Chapman was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, slightly less than the maximum possible of 25 years to life.

Life in Attica

Chapman has been imprisoned since 1981 in Attica State Prison, which is near Buffalo, in Western New York. Chapman is reported to be an evangelical Christian. He has been separated from other prisoners because of concerns for his safety. To this end, Chapman is confined within a Secure Housing Unit 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. Chapman was denied from participating in the Cephas Attica workshops, a charitable organization which helps inmates to adjust to life outside prison. Chapman 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, and he told his parole board hearing in 2004 that, if released, he would like to minister on Jesus and God. 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.

Chapman is on the Family Reunion Program, and is allowed two visits 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 gets occasional visits from his sister, a few friends, and clerics. His mother, his only other regular visitor, died in February 2004.

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, but nothing else since 1994.

Parole applications and campaigns

Chapman has been denied parole four times, by a three-member board, in closed hearings lasting less than an hour, in October 2000, October 2002, October 2004 and October 2006.

Prior to the 2000 hearing, Yoko Ono sent a letter to the board opposing the release of Chapman, whom she refers to as "the subject". Ono's letter, released to the media afterwards by her press spokesman Eliot Mintz, stated that Lennon "brought light and hope to the whole world" and "would have gladly changed his position with 'the subject' and live the life of protection that 'the subject' enjoys now".

She stated that if Chapman were granted parole, "...myself and John's two sons would not feel safe for the rest of our lives – people who are in positions of high visibility and outspokenness such as John would also feel unsafe", and that "many will feel betrayed. Anger and fear would rise again [such that] people in the outside world who are strongly distressed about what he has done... would feel that it is unfair that 'the subject' is rewarded with a normal life while John lost his. Violence begets violence."

In addition, State Senator Michael F. 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 Mark David Chapman."

Also, an online petition to the parole board never to release Chapman was started by Sarajane Sein. As of August 3, 2007 it has reportedly collected 9299 signatures supporting statements such as: "Chapman committed a heinous crime, unprovoked and without remorse", "He deserves to pay for this with life in prison" and "It is also a matter of public safety that he not be released."

At a 50-minute hearing in 2000, Chapman stated that he was not a danger to society and had overcome the psychological problems that he had at the time of the murder. He also stated that, as a conservative, he believed he did not deserve to be free and that "I believe once you take a person's life, there's no way you can make up for that. Period." He also spoke about regret for the effect on Yoko Ono.

The Board's page of explanation stated that while Chapman had an "exemplary disciplinary record" while in prison, partly because he has served his time in special protective housing, "you have been unable to avail yourself of anti-violence and/or anti-aggression programming."

The board stated that "Your most vicious and violent act was apparently fueled by your need to be acknowledged... During your parole hearing, this panel noted your continued interest in maintaining your notoriety." The board concluded that releasing Chapman at that time would "deprecate the seriousness of the crime and serve to undermine respect for the law."

Robert Gangi, a lawyer for the Correctional Association of New York, said he thought it unlikely Chapman would ever be freed: "The fact that it was John Lennon... eliminates any hope for even a slim chance for Chapman being released... The parole board is not going to risk the political heat by releasing Chapman."

An additional online petition was started in 2001 by Roland Porter of the John Lennon Society, stating "This Petition is designed to keep the convicted Killer of John Winston (Ono) Lennon (Mark David Chapman) in prison without Parole!"

In 2002, the parole board stated that releasing Chapman after 22 years in prison would "deprecate the seriousness" of the crime and that while "your behavioral record continues to be very positive, your current positive adjustment...cannot predict your community behavior"

The parole board held a third hearing in 2004. The board reported that their decision was based on the interview, a review of records and deliberation. The board said its decision "was based on the extreme malicious intent you exhibited during the instant offense where you fired a handgun multiple times striking your target".

One of the reasons given by the Board was having subjected Yoko Ono to "monumental suffering by her witnessing the crime". They stated: "During the interview, your statements for motivation acknowledges the attention you felt this murder would generate," and "To release you on parole at this time would significantly undermine respect for the law." Around 6,000 people had signed the online petition 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 they remained "concerned about the bizarre nature of this premeditated and violent crime... While the panel notes your satisfactory institutional adjustment, due to the extremely violent nature of the offense your 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 wasn't sure if she was ready to yet.

Chapman's next parole hearing is scheduled for October 2008.

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."

For a period during his teens he regularly smoked marijuana and ingested LSD. Chapman was a fan of the Beatles, particularly Lennon, but was reportedly angered by Lennon's infamous 1966 remark that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus". Jan Reeves, sister of one of Chapman's best friends, reports that Chapman "seemed really angry toward John Lennon, and he kept saying he could not understand why John Lennon had said it.

According to Mark, there should be nobody more popular than the Lord Jesus Christ. He said it was blasphemy. The song "Imagine" also angered Chapman – at prayer meetings and religious rallies, Chapman and his prayer group sang a parody with the lyric "Imagine, imagine John Lennon is dead."

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 reported 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 Catcher in the Rye after rereading it for the first time since high school. He was particularly influenced by the book's polemic 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 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. The chief witness 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 the 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 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 Catcher in the Rye milieu where my mindset is Holden Caulfield and anti-phoniness."

Chapman had begun praying to the devil, as well as to God, for strength.[citation needed] He 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."

Following the murder, Chapman underwent dozens of assessments by different psychiatrists. He described his anger toward his father who had regularly abused his mother, 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 John 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. He had attempted suicide three years previously. 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, 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."

Media and film

For the first six years in Attica, Chapman refused all requests for interviews. But he later told James R. Gaines his story of the murder and his youth. Gaines turned the interviews into 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, N.Y., 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 Network 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 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, starring actor Jared Leto as Chapman and Lindsay Lohan as a Lennon fan who befriends him.

The film's title is a reference to The Catcher in the Rye, which has 26 chapters, and was inspired by Chapter 27 of Robert Rosen's book Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, according to the Spanish-language newsweekly Proceso and other Latin American publications. Chapter 27 premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2007 and received mostly negative reviews; the film failed to land a distributor in the USA. It has been picked up for distribution in Europe, Asia and South America.

Another film, The Killing of John Lennon, directed by Andrew Piddington and starring Jonas Ball as Chapman, premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in August 2006.

John Lennon's murder in popular culture

  • Marilyn Manson's album, Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death), as well as being partially inspired by Lennon's murder, makes various references to Lennon, particularly in the song "Lamb of God".

  • Elton John's 1982 song, "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)" from the album Jump Up!, refers to Mark David Chapman as the "insect (who) damaged so much grain".

    Former Beatle George Harrison referred to Chapman in his song, "All Those Years Ago", as "The devil's best friend... someone who offended all."

  • Pink Floyd's guitarist David Gilmour wrote the song "Murder" about Lennon's death, which appears on his 1984 solo album About Face.

  • Warrant wrote a song on their 1992 album Dog Eat Dog about Mark David Chapman called "Andy Warhol Was Right".

  • Indie-rap group Jedi Mind Tricks refers to Chapman on their track "Put 'Em In The Grave", stating "I'm like Mark David Chapman with a Salinger book".

  • Indie rock band ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead released a song entitled "Mark David Chapman" in their 1999 album Madonna.

  • Half Man Half Biscuit mention Chapman in their song "When the Evening Sun Goes Down" from their 2002 album, Cammel Laird Social Club. The song includes the lyric "I'm off to see the Bootleg Beatles, as the bootleg Mark Chapman".

  • Loudon Wainwright III mentions Chapman in the song "Not John" on his 1982 album I'm Alright. The song recalls the day of Lennon's shooting, Chapman's involvement, and the public response to it.

  • Julian Cope penned the track "Don't Call Me Mark Chapman," which appears on his 1994 album Autogeddon.

  • The Southern California punk band Bad Religion make reference to Chapman in the song "Don't Pray on Me" on their album Recipe for Hate. The line is "Mark David did it to John".

  • The murder of John Lennon is referenced in "Dakota" by American rock band Of A Revolution on their 2005 album Stories of a Stranger.

  • The heavy metal band Eighteen Visions make reference to Chapman in their song "Who the F*ck Killed John Lennon" on their release entitled Until The Ink Runs Out.

  • Voice tracks taken from an early interview of Chapman are converted into a garage band song fronted by Mark David Chapman, entitled[36] "Crazy".

  • Ozzy Osbourne wrote a song entitled "Shot In the Dark", which is written from Chapman's point of view.

  • Paul Simon's "Late Great Jonny Ace" on the Hearts and Bones album was written in response to Lennon's murder.

  • Danish rock band Dizzy Mizz Lizzy published a song about John Lennon's death, entitled 11:07 PM.

  • American rock group Styx recorded "Killing the Thing That You Love", which contains the chorus "As you look in the mirror, at what you’ve become, killing the thing that you love, like Lennon’s assassin, Lennon’s assassin".

  • Sumo's "Cállate Mark" (Shut up Mark), from the "Fiebre", talks about Mark Chapman in his cell.

  • Christine Lavin recorded a song titled "The Dakota" referencing the murder for her 1985 album Future Fossils.

  • A scene in the 1997 film Private Parts features an irate Howard Stern insisting that Chapman be killed if he were ever released.

  • The play and film Six Degrees of Separation mentions Mark Chapman during a monologue on the anti-social aspects of Catcher in the Rye.

  • A conspiracy theory proposes that United States anti-extremist movements, allegedly created and influenced by former United States President Richard Nixon and FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover, saw Lennon as a "threat of the worst kind", and labeled him as a "dangerous radical that needs to be stopped".

  • In his book Who Killed John Lennon, Fenton Bresler addresses this theory and argues that Chapman was a CIA assassin who was programmed to carry out the murder. The theory is featured in Absentia, an episode of Law & Order. In the song "72nd & Central" Proof of D12 references Lennon's murder.

  • British psychedelic band Psychic TV has Mark David Chapman detailing his reasons for shooting John Lennon while a line from the Beatles' "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" is constantly looped on their 1988 double-album "Jack the TAB: Tekno Acid Beat".

  • British band EMF has a single "Lies", which turned controversial for including a voice sample of Mark Chapman. Yoko Ono achieved an injunction and a modified version was included in future pressings.

  • Irish band The Cranberries recorded a song "I Just Shot John Lennon". The song is a track from their 1996 release To the Faithful Departed. On a show during 1996, Dolores O'Riordan introduced this song as a tribute to a great man whose life was taken by someone brain-dead.

  • Irish rock band U2, during the Spring (first) leg of the 2001 Elevation Tour, regularly made reference to Chapman in the spoken section at the end of the song "Bullet the Blue Sky" during an anti-gun tirade from Bono. The line was normally a variation on "I can make a wound that won't heal, 38 mm like the police, I'm at the door with John and Yoko, screaming 'love and peace', an old tune soon to be deceased. John, we don't need your help! America's at war with itself. More bodybags, than Vietnam, what's my name Mark Chapman"

  • During World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)'s WrestleMania 22, a match took place between Women's Champion Trish Stratus and Mickie James, who according to the storyline was Trish's biggest fan. Color commentator Jerry "The King" Lawler analogized Chapman's admiration for Lennon in a similar way to how James idolized Stratus, claiming to be her (kayfabe) best friend before attacking her.

  • Paul McCartney mentions Chapman in a poem called "Jerk of All Jerks". Band Mindless Self Indulgence wrote a song using their fan's votes titled Mark David Chapman.

  • Queen's singer, Freddie Mercury, wrote a song for John, called "Life is real (Song for Lennon)". It is included on their 1982 album "Hot Space".

  • O.A.R. has a track on their album, Stories of a Stranger, entitled "Dakota" which is about the death of Lennon and the great loss to the music world.

Further reading

  • Fenton Bresler. "Who Killed John Lennon?". 1989 St Martin's Press. ISBN 0312034520
  • Jack Jones. Let Me Take You Down: Inside the mind of Mark David Chapman. 1992. Virgin. ISBN 0863696899.
  • Robert Rosen. Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. 2000. Quick American Archives. ISBN 0932551513


Larry King Live Weekend

A Look Back at Mark David Chapman in His Own Words

September 30, 2000


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, it's been nearly 20 years since Mark David Chapman gunned down former Beatle John Lennon. Now he's up for parole. Chapman talked with me in Attica in 1992. An encore presentation of that gripping interview with John Lennon's killer is next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Twelve years ago, shots rang out in front of the Dakota in New York City. The victim was an icon for a generation. The gunman was Mark David Chapman.

As fans continue to mourn the loss of former Beatle John Lennon, many continue to wonder about the man who killed him, someone who was also a Beatles fan, someone who requested Lennon's autograph on the very night he pulled the trigger.

After more than a decade in prison, the assassin says he's rid of the demons that drove him to kill and ready to tell his story. Chapman sat for hours of interviews with the author of a new book, "Let Me Take You Down," which chronicles his life and his crime.

Mark David Chapman joins us from Attica Correctional Facility on this, the 12th anniversary of John Lennon's death.

Mark, why now? Why tell the story now?

MARK DAVID CHAPMAN, JOHN LENNON'S ASSASSIN: Well, Larry, I'm well now. I've had a number of years of wellness. I feel good. There's always been things inside of me that I wanted to get and tell me why I did what I did.

KING: Did you contact the writer or he you? How did the book come about?

CHAPMAN: I met Jack Jones through a prison volunteer service group here, Sefus (ph) Attica. I talked to the late director, Harold Steele, of that group, and I wanted somebody to talk to. I was going through a number of years of their basic isolation, no visits except for my wife, Gloria. And I asked to see somebody. He brought Jack Jones in. I didn't know he was a reporter for the local paper. I kind of freaked out. And after we got to talking, he promised me everything we talked about would be off the record, and he kept that promise for a number of years.

About two years ago, on the 10th anniversary of John Lennon's death, I contacted him formally and said, I've got to say something. I've got to come out with something. I was being hounded by the press all over, Larry, you know international.

KING: Mm-hmm.

CHAPMAN: So I wanted to do a statement, just a one-paragraph, simple, cut-and-dry statement. And he thought about that and said, Mark, we're going to have to talk a little bit about this. So I went back up to my cell and I prayed, and -- that's what I usually do when I have to make a pretty tough decision, I pray about it -- and I came back down the next day, and I said, let's go with whatever you want to do. So he wrote a two-part article for "The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle," which was printed worldwide in different languages. And it seemed to be received very well.

KING: Mm-hmm.

CHAPMAN: And that's how we hooked up, through that article.

KING: All right, your sentence was what, 20 years to life?

CHAPMAN: Twenty years to life.

KING: You have served how long now, Mark?

CHAPMAN: Twelve years to the day, this day.

KING: You're eligible at 20 years for parole?

CHAPMAN: I'm eligible for parole in eight years.

KING: OK, do you have expectations about that? How do you -- Your how old now?

CHAPMAN: Thirty-seven.

KING: OK, how do you deal with the 20 years to life. So you know you're going to be there until you're 45?


KING: All right, how do you deal with that period of time? You know definitely you're going to be there another eight years. In time frame, how do you deal with that?

CHAPMAN: As a lifer, which is what we call ourselves across the country, people who are in prison for murder or worse, and who are doing life will try to take it a day at a time. And that's what I do. I've learned to do that. You naturally learn to do that through the years. If you don't...

KING: OK, a day at a time.

CHAPMAN: You're in trouble.

KING: All right. CHAPMAN: You have to do it a day at a time.

KING: You don't set a goal, you don't say, boy, eight years from tomorrow I'm going to walk out of here and do this?

CHAPMAN: No, I don't think about the board. I don't think about eight years from now. That's not any prerogative right now.

KING: Well when you live daily, then, do you set daily goals? Do you say, like, today I am going to finish this book, write this thing?

CHAPMAN: Yes. I write now. I write Christian short stories. One of them is in the back of Jack's book. It's called "The Prisoner's Letter." That took me three years. I've just started a new one. I don't know when that's going to be through, but that's the goal right now is finish this next story. That's it.

KING: Are you saying, Mark, that the young man who shot John Lennon was not you? What are you saying?

CHAPMAN: It was me, Larry, and I accept full responsibility for what I did. I've seen places where I'm blaming the devil, and I hope that that isn't kept going after this interview. I'm not blaming the devil, I'm blaming myself. But in the major sense, it wasn't me, because I'm better now. I'm normal, I'm functioning, I have a lovely wife, and we have a great marriage -- as much as, you know, can be had from here, from Attica.

But I'm not the same person in the major sense, because back then I was lost and I didn't know who I was. But now I do.

KING: All right. So it was you, but the personality of you is different now?

CHAPMAN: Well I didn't have a personality then, and I do now. I've realized...

KING: All right, who was Mark David Chapman?

CHAPMAN: On December 8, 1980 Mark David Chapman was a very confused person. He was literally living inside of a paperback novel, J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye." He was vacillating between suicide, between catching the first taxi home, back to Hawaii, between killing, as you said, an icon.

KING: By the way, would you have killed someone else you think? Would Mark David have done that if it weren't Lennon?

CHAPMAN: The Secret Service asked me that. If Lennon would have unfortunately died a few days prior, say, in an automobile accident, would you have stalked someone else? I can't answer that question. I don't know. I was so bonded with John Lennon at that point, what I told them is I'd probably be crushed. And at that point, I don't know what I would have done.

KING: Therefore, you have to have daily regrets.

CHAPMAN: I have regrets. I'm sorry for what I did. I realize now that I really ended a man's life. Then, he was an album cover to me. He didn't exist, even when I met him earlier that day when he signed the album for me, which he did very graciously. And he was not a phony, by the way. He was very patient, and he was very cordial and he asked me if there was anything else. So if that didn't register -- and I also met his son that day. If that didn't register that he was a human being, then I wasn't perceiving him as such. I just saw him as a two-dimensional celebrity with no real feelings.

KING: OK, why did Mark David Chapman want to shoot the album cover?

CHAPMAN: Mark David Chapman at that point was a walking shell who didn't ever learn how to let out his feelings of anger, of rage, of disappointment. Mark David Chapman was a failure in his own mind. He wanted to become somebody important, Larry. He didn't know how to handle being a nobody. He tried to be a somebody through his years, but as he progressively got worse -- and I believe I was schizophrenic at the time. Nobody can tell me I wasn't -- although I was responsible, Mark David Chapman struck out at something he perceived to be phony, something he was angry at, to become something he wasn't, to become somebody.

KING: We'll talk about that day, 12 years ago today, that night in New York City, with Mark David Chapman, subject of a major new book, from Attica Prison in New York.

We'll be right back.


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE, with Mark David Chapman.

Mark, will you relive with us those terrible moments for you, for the world, for a lot of people around and in circles closest to John Lennon?

What happened that night?

CHAPMAN: Well, if you want to pick it up from the night, I was standing there with a gun in my pocket.

KING: You knew you were going to shoot him?


KING: Knew you were going to shoot him?

CHAPMAN: Absolutely.


CHAPMAN: Tried not to, praying not to, but knowing down deep it was probably going to come to that. KING: Did you know it would be that night? Did you know you would see him again?

CHAPMAN: Yes, I knew that morning, oddly, when I left the hotel. I had some type of premonition that this was the last time I was going to leave my hotel room. I hadn't seen him up to that point, that's what makes it interesting. I wasn't even sure he was in the building.

And then I left the hotel room, bought a copy of "The Catcher in the Rye," signed it to Holden Caulfield from Holden Caulfield, and wrote underneath that "This is my statement," underlining the world "this," the emphasis on the word this. I had planned not to say anything after the shooting. Walked briskly up Central Park West to 72nd Street and began milling around there with fans that were there, Jude and Jerry, and later a photographer that came there.



KING: And then John came out that day, right?

CHAPMAN: He came out. I was leaning against a gargoyle-studded railing and was looking down, I was reading "The Catcher in the Rye," and I believe he got into a taxi and disappeared. And then later that day, I had gone to lunch with, I believe, Jude. We came back.

KING: With who?

CHAPMAN: With Jude. She was a fan there...

KING: Uh-huh.

CHAPMAN: ... that was there at the building, and we struck up a conversation about Hawaii, about John Lennon. She had been there a number of times. And at one point during the day, she had left, and John came back out. I don't remember him going back in from the taxi, but he was obviously back there the building.

He was doing an RKO radio special, and he came out of the building and the photographer that I mentioned earlier, Paul Gores, he kind of pushed me forward and said, here's your chance. You know, you've been waiting all day. You've come from Hawaii to have him sign your album. Go, go.

And I was very nervous and I was right in front of John Lennon instantly, and I had a black, Bic pen and I said, John, would you sign my album. And he said sure. Yoko went and got into the car, and he pushed the button on the pen and started to get to it write. It was a little hard to get to write at first. Then he wrote his name, John Lennon, and underneath that, 1980.

And he looked at me ,as I mentioned earlier, he said, is that all? Do you want anything else? And I felt then and now that he knew something subconsciously that he was looking into the eyes of the person that was going kill him. KING: How do you -- why do you think that?

CHAPMAN: Well, his wife was in the car. The door was opened, and he's a busy man. He's going to go to a radio or to his record studio, and he's talking to a nobody, just signing an album for a nobody, and he's asking me, is that all I want. I mean, he's giving me the autograph. I don't have a camera on me. What could I give him?

KING: I would admit that is a strange thing to say. All right. So he leaves?

CHAPMAN: Yes, he leaves there. A car.

KING: And what do you do the rest of the day?

CHAPMAN: I stand around, like an idiot, waiting for him to come back.

KING: And what time did he came back?

CHAPMAN: He came back about 10 to 11 at night.

KING: Had you eaten dinner?

CHAPMAN: No, I had not.

KING: Feared you might have missed him?

CHAPMAN: Probably.

KING: Knew you were going shoot him.


KING: How did that happen? What happened?

CHAPMAN: Well, the photographer left. I -- in all fairness I have to say I tried to get him to stay.

KING: Because.

CHAPMAN: Because there were those that felt I wanted him to shoot pictures of the shooting, which is not true.

KING: Why, then, did you want him to stay?

CHAPMAN: I wanted him to stay because I wanted out of there. There was a part -- a great part of me that didn't want to be there. I asked Jude the fan before she left for a date that night. She said no. If she'd have said yes, I would have been on date with her.

KING: But you might have killed him the next day.

CHAPMAN: Oh, yes. I would have probably come back.

KING: The circumstances of the killing, what happened?

CHAPMAN: I was sitting on the inside of the arch of the Dakota Building. And it was dark. It as windy. Jose, the doorman, was out along the sidewalk. And here's another odd thing that happened. I was at an angle where I could see Central Park West and 72nd and I see this limousine pull up and, as you know, there are probably hundreds of limousines that turn up Central Park West in the evening, but I knew that was his.

And I said, this is it, and I stood up. The limousine pulled up, the door opened, the rear left door opened. Yoko got out. John was far behind, say 20 feet, when he got out. I nodded to Yoko when she walked by me.

KING: Did she nod back?

CHAPMAN: No, she didn't. And I don't mean to be so clinical about this, but I've told it a number of times. I hope you understand. John came out, and he looked at me, and I think he recognized, here's the fellow that I signed the album earlier, and he walked past me. I took five steps toward the street, turned, withdrew my Charter Arms .38 and fired five shots into his back.

KING: All in his back?

CHAPMAN: All in his back.

KING: Never saw it coming?

CHAPMAN: He never saw anything coming, Larry. It was a very quick -- it was a rough thing.

KING: What -- had you shot that weapon before?

CHAPMAN: That weapon, no. I didn't even know if the bullets were going to work, and when they worked, I remember thinking, they're working they're working. I was worried that the plane in the baggage compartment, the humidity had ruined them, and I remember thinking, they're working.

KING: What did Yoko do?

CHAPMAN: She naturally, and I can't blame her. She dashed around the stair area. I don't know if it's still there at the Dakota today, but she just, you know, ran for cover, which is what anyone would do. John, according to what I've been told, stumbled up the stairs, and then I saw her come back around and then go up to the stairs and then she cradled his body.

KING: Did he -- she scream?

CHAPMAN: I don't think she screamed, but a few minutes after that there was just a blood-curdling scream from someone and it put the hair on the back of my neck straight up.

KING: Were you relieved? CHAPMAN: No. I -- what happened was I was in a -- what happened before the shooting, before I pulled the trigger and after were two different scenes in my mind.

Before, everything was like dead calm. And I was ready for this to happen. I even heard a voice, my own, inside me say do it, do it, do it. You know, here we go.

And then afterwards, it was like the film strip broke. I fell in upon myself. I like went into a state of shock. I stood there with the gun hanging limply down at my right side and Jose the doorman came over and he's crying, and he's grabbing and he's shaking my arm and he shook the gun right out of my hand, which was a very brave thing to do to an armed person. And he kicked the gun across the pavement, had somebody take it away and I was just -- I was stunned.

I didn't know what to do. I took "The Catcher in the Rye" out of my pocket. I paced. I tried to read it. I just couldn't wait, Larry until those police got there. I was just devastated.

KING: Hold it right there. Mark. We'll be right back with Mark David Chapman. He's in the Attica Correctional Institute in New York state. We'll be right back.


KING: J.D. Salinger, who has not been heard from in years -- he's reclusive -- wrote "Catcher in the Rye," a book read by millions, admired by millions. I wonder what he must be thinking as he -- if he is watching this.

Mark, why are you blaming a book?

CHAPMAN: I'm not blaming a book. I blame myself for crawling inside of the book and I certainly want to say that J.D. Salinger and "The Catcher in the Rye" didn't cause me to kill John Lennon. In fact, I wrote to J.D. Salinger, I got his box number from someone, and I apologized to him for this.

I feel badly about that. It's my fault. I crawled in, found my pseudo-self within these pages...

KING: In Holden.

CHAPMAN: ... and played out the whole thing.

KING: But Holden wasn't violent.

CHAPMAN: Holden wasn't violent, but he had a violent thought of shooting someone, of emptying a revolver into this fellow's stomach, someone that had done him wrong.

But you're right; he was basically 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 the Dakota.

KING: What, Mark, got you better? What cured, what you believe, was schizophrenia?

CHAPMAN: Well, not medication and not doctors, but the Lord. I've walked in the power of the Lord now for a number of years.

KING: How did that happen?

CHAPMAN: Well, I became a Christian when I was 16, Larry, and that lasted about a year of genuine walking with him.

Through my life, off and on, I have struggled with different things, as we all do, and at those times I would turn to the Lord. The night of the death of John Lennon I was far from him. I wasn't listening to him. I wasn't reading the Bible anymore.

Today I'm different. I read the Bible. I pray, and I walk with him. He forgives me. He doesn't condone what I did -- and that's a very important thing -- he didn't like what I did 12 years ago. He didn't like all the pain I caused everybody, especially John's widow.

But he forgives me and he hears me and he listens to me, and he is the one, all these years, that has brought me out of the abyss, not medications or counseling. I, basically, had to counsel myself through these years, not that it's not available here, but I've been very private about this. This is not anything that's easy to live with.

KING: How do you know it isn't a crutch?

CHAPMAN: Well, in a way, it's got to be a crutch, because we all need a crutch. Life is not easy and life, for me, isn't easy.

And, therefore, I think the Lord is, has a tender spot in his heart for prisoners. He said so. The rest of the Bible says so in many different places. And I've leaned on him -- if it's a crutch, I've been leaning on a crutch, but it's a crutch made out of the cross, because without that I probably wouldn't be alive today because I was very suicidal and I certainly wouldn't be in a well state of mind, not without him.

KING: Did you have, prior to the conversion to the Lord, remorse?

CHAPMAN: Well, I converted to the Lord at 16, before the shooting. I know a lot of people have a hard time understanding that -- how could someone who is quote-unquote born again shoot someone.

And my answer to that is, after thinking about it deeply: If you were God, you wouldn't want a bunch of robots running around. He gives us free will. We are free agents. We can do what we want. He specifically told me -- I don't want to sound like one of those preachers on TV, but he told my heart, let's put it that way -- he told my heart and he let me know, don't kill. I don't want you to kill. He doesn't like murder; the first baby born was a murderer.

But I chose to kill someone. I went against what he wanted me to do. KING: Let me get a break, Mark, and we'll come right back. We'll spend some more moments with Mark David Chapman.


Don't go away.



KING: We have more of our 1992 interview with John Lennon's killer Mark David Chapman coming up; but first, the words of Yoko Ono. I sat down with Lennon's widow late last year, shortly before the 19th anniversary of her husband's death.

I asked Yoko if she could ever find it in her heart to forgive Chapman.


YOKO ONO: Larry, I'm just blocking that. You know, I don't want to know about it, really.

KING: So you don't think one way or the other about it?

ONO: No, I mean, it may be wrong that I'm not confronting that particular issue, but, I mean, it really is very hard for me.

KING: So you've blocked that out completely?

ONO: Well, I have to survive. I have to live, and I don't want to fall into a kind of depression that takes me nowhere.



KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE with Mark David Chapman.

Let's touch a couple other bases, Mark. Do you expect to get out in eight years?

CHAPMAN: No, I don't.

KING: You're not -- do you expect to stay there for life?

CHAPMAN: I don't know about that. That's up to the parole division here in the state of New York.

KING: How...

CHAPMAN: I certainly don't think they're going let me out on the parole date. They -- because of the nature of the crime, because of a man has died...

KING: Yes.

CHAPMAN: ... they generally don't let you go right away.

KING: But it was second-degree murder you pled to, right?

CHAPMAN: Yes, it was. I pled guilty.

KING: So they -- now they determined it was not premeditated.

CHAPMAN: Well, it was definitely premeditated.

KING: Then why second degree?

CHAPMAN: That is within the second degree. I think this state doesn't have a first-degree murder except on the books, in the case of the killing of a police officer.

KING: Yes. How are you treated at that infamous place? Attica, while maybe it got its rap badly when they had the riots, but Attica is known as one of the tough-duty prisons.

CHAPMAN: It's a maximum-security prison. It's not the same prison as it was those years ago. I'm treated humanely. I'm eating well, as you can see. I am treated -- once the officers get to know me, they see I'm just like everybody else, if that can be imagined, and I'm treated decently. I don't have any problem here in that area. I'm not beaten or tortured.

KING: Are you in a cell alone?

CHAPMAN: Every prisoner in Attica has his own cell. That's one of the good things about Attica.

KING: What kind of room are you in now?

CHAPMAN: I'm in a probably a 6 by 8 cell. I'm -- by the way, I have a job. I'm let out every morning at 6:30, and I work throughout the day.

KING: Doing?

CHAPMAN: My job is called kitchen man. I help set up the meals for the inmates that are here in this particular building. And I do other things, too, but basically my job is in the kitchen?

KING: What do you make of all the conspiracy theories that have come up in the last 12 years, CIA, mind control, et cetera?

CHAPMAN: Against the death of John Lennon?

KING: Yes.

CHAPMAN: Hogwash.

KING: No one asked you to do it? No one prompted you to do it? No cabal, nothing? CHAPMAN: No, they probably wished they would have had me, Larry, but they didn't. It was me doing it, it wasn't them.

KING: Do you -- this is kind of perverse, I guess. Do you have fans? Do people write to you?

CHAPMAN: Well, I don't call them fans, but there are people that -- they write to me. I got a letter yesterday. I guess you wouldn't call the fellow a fan, but he said, I hereby declare on this date that you will not die a natural death.

And then another fellow sent me a package, a book, a Christian book, written by Dr. Henry Cloud. And it's a book on healing. It's a book on looking into your past. And I think I'll read it. So I'm getting both -- I'm getting both ends of the spectrum, the extreme hate, which I understand, and the compassion, the understanding.

The people that have read the book have seen, hey, this was a monstrous act, but perhaps not done by a typical monster.

KING: Do you get romantic letters?

CHAPMAN: Everything, Larry. I get every possible thing you could imagine.

KING: Yes, girls. The treatment by the other prisoners -- good?

CHAPMAN: I'm upstairs with three other inmates, and they're carefully screened. And most of them are going home very soon....

KING: How do you feel about...

CHAPMAN: ... and I don't have...

KING: They're nice to you?

CHAPMAN: They're very nice to me.

KING: You haven't had any brawls or anything.


KING: How about homosexualty attacks?

CHAPMAN: None, zero.

KING: None at all? None threatened?

CHAPMAN: It doesn't happen in this building.

KING: Because it's tightly secure?

CHAPMAN: Tightly secure.

KING: OK, there was another -- remember the guy who stalked Rebecca Schaeffer, the actress, and killed her also said he was reading "Catcher in the Rye," and there have been other copycatters. What are your thoughts about them?

CHAPMAN: I regret that the most, because John Lennon wasn't the only person to die because of this. There were suicides after, which I deeply regret.

KING: And there's celebrity stalking?

CHAPMAN: And there's celebrity stalking. I'd love to talk about that, Larry. So it didn't end with the death of John Lennon. And that's -- you know, you keep paying for this over and over when you hear of the death of a celebrity. And maybe they've got "The Catcher In The Rye," as John Hinckley did...

KING: Tell me why do you think...

CHAPMAN: A copy in his Washington hotel room.

KING: Why do you think people stalk celebrities?

CHAPMAN: People stalk celebrities -- and this is just my opinion. I haven't studied psychology -- because they have nothing inside themselves. Their esteem is rock bottom. And they feel that by writing fan letters or actually coming in close contact with a celebrity, they feel important.

I know that I did some of those things before the thought of John Lennon, or killing John Lennon, came into my mind. I went to an art gallery, and Robert Goulet was there and Leslie Nielsen was there. And I just wanted to be around them. And I had my picture taken with Robert Goulet -- I don't think this has ever come out. And I felt important while I was with them. And then after, you disintegrate again. You become nothing.

So if you have nothing to start with, and your life consists of fantasizing about celebrities or being with them, that can become very dangerous. And that is a phenomenon in this country now that has to be addressed. That's why the Secret Service has been talking with me and other people to try and find out what was ticking in this thing here on that night and before. I'm meeting with them Friday, by the way.

KING: With the Secret Service?

CHAPMAN: Friday.

KING: Are they going to talk to you about protecting Clinton?

CHAPMAN: They've asked me about presidential candidates. If there are so many bodyguards, would that have prevented you? And my answer to that is no. I still would have probably struck out at John Lennon if he had 20 bodyguards. I was that desperate.

KING: When the incident with Goulet, which you have not revealed before, taking the picture with him and you felt like someone, were you conscious of it at the time? Were you conscious while taking the picture, I felt like someone, and then when removed felt like less? CHAPMAN: Sure.

KING: You were?

CHAPMAN: Yes, I remember was rude to him, Larry. I touched his shoulder, and he kind of turned back to me and said, like, you know, what's this? You know, can't you see I'm trying to have a conversation?

People like me at that time, the way I was at that time, they don't think of other people. They're not polite. They're just, let me have my autograph or let me have my picture taken...

KING: Yes, we all...

CHAPMAN: They don't think of the people as people.

KING: Anyone who gets attention sees this. Is there anything you could say to a celebrity to do about it?

CHAPMAN: To contact someone. There's -- I think Gavin DeBecker (ph) is the person to contact. I couldn't tell them what to do, except don't egg on anybody. I think that's what Rebecca Schaeffer did, if I'm not mistaken. She wrote back to Bardo -- not that she's to blame for her death -- but she wrote back to Bardo, and she said, you know, thank you. That was the most wonderful fan letter I've ever gotten. I would discourage that.

I would more likely want to addresses the stalkers and say, look, you've got to talk to somebody. If you don't talk to somebody, you're going to end up like me.

KING: Have any of them ever contacted you, Bardo or anybody?

CHAPMAN: First time I've ever said this, Larry. Robert Bardo wrote me three letters. I don't have them anymore. I tore them up. They were very deranged letters.

KING: After he killed her?

CHAPMAN: This was before, Larry.

KING: Before he killed her?

CHAPMAN: Yes, but he did not mention killing anyone, and he did not mention Rebecca Schaeffer by name.

KING: Did he leave a return address?

CHAPMAN: Yes, he did.

KING: Did you turn it over to authorities?

CHAPMAN: Yes, I did. Someone, a Christian worker here, had a Christian group contact him and send him some materials. He wrote me back and said, that's doing me no good. You see, we're free agent. We make those choices.

KING: OK, why didn't the authorities do something about him?

CHAPMAN: Well, again, he wasn't saying he was going to kill anyone. He was just asking me questions. What is it like to be in prison? But very, very deranged letters. And, Larry, I got frightened. I tore them up.


CHAPMAN: When I was watching the news, that news came on, and I went, my god, that's the same fellow that wrote to me. I told someone about it because I couldn't contain it, then tore up the letters because I don't want any part of either being for or against this man for what he did. He will have to stand alone on that, but I did receive mail from him, yes.

KING: One other thing, Mark. If it weren't Lennon, could it have been Goulet? Could it have been Goulet? Could it have been Sinatra? Could it have been Paul McCartney?

CHAPMAN: Probably not one of the other Beatles. This thing started, Larry, when I got angry at Lennon. I found a book in the library that showed him on the roof of the Dakota, and you're familiar with the Dakota, it's a very nice, sumptuous building. And, remember I'm in a different state of mind and I'm falling in on myself, and I'm angry at seeing him on the Dakota and I say to myself, that phony, that bastard.

And I got that mad. I took the book home to my wife and I said, look, he's a phony. It started with anger. It didn't start with a person walking down the street saying gee, I wish I was famous. This thing, you know, in fairness wasn't all about becoming a pseudo- celebrity. It was borne of anger and rage and that's what happened.

KING: Might it have been anger then at a president? Did it have to be...

CHAPMAN: It could have been anger at a president.

KING: Or a broadcaster?

CHAPMAN: It could have been anger at a broadcaster. It could have happened that way very easily, but I think because it was Lennon, because my past -- Jack gets into this in the book deeply. My past was very rooted in Lennon. I believed in the things he was saying, and I believe he did too, by the way. I don't think he's a phony anymore.

KING: Do you listen to his music?

CHAPMAN: If it's on the radio I'll listen to it. I did have some tapes, but recently, let's say two months ago, I had to get rid of them. I just didn't want them in my cell.

KING: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for giving us this time. CHAPMAN: Thank you very much, Larry, I appreciate it.

KING: Mark David Chapman, from Attica Correctional Institution in upstate New York. This is LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.


KING: We're back. Journalist Jack Jones has made a habit of probing the criminal mind. His latest subject is John Lennon's assassin, Mark David Chapman, who we just spent most of this program with.

Jones' examination of Chapman reveals various sides of a complicated and disturbed man. A caring relief worker who aided Vietnamese refugees, a bashful Georgia boy who volunteers at the local Y, a suicidal alcoholic, a deadly celebrity stalker.

"Let Me Take You Down" is available from Billard Books and takes us inside the crime and the criminal. The author joins us here in Washington.

We just spent 40 minutes with Chapman, removed somewhat by satellite in Attica. You were with him.

JACK JONES, AUTHOR, "LET ME TAKE YOU DOWN": I've been with him quite a bit for the past six years.

KING: How many hours?

JONES: Over 200 hours of tape interviews and another probably 200 hours of off the record conversations and phone conversations.

KING: What feeling did you come away with?

JONES: You come away with the feeling that Mark is an unusual individual. He's a sociopath, but he is much more intelligent than, I think, most of these people. He's not your average woodchuck serial killer. He's capable of great self-analysis, and I believe that the value of studying people like him is magnified when you have someone who has that sort of mind, that sort of introspective nature.

KING: Now you've looked at criminals a long time, right, written about them extensively.

JONES: Fifteen years in and out of Attica prison.

KING: You call him a sociopath. As I remember the definition of sociopath, they don't know. They just -- they don't have a moral -- they don't have a conscience. Is that still true, do you think? Is he conning us?

JONES: I thinks Mark cons himself, still. I think that his mind is capable of almost infinite self-deception. I believe that unlike a lot of people, he tries very hard to empathize with other people. He tries to sense that other people have pain also, but it's mostly intellectual sort of knowledge. He doesn't really feel it. KING: He doesn't really sorry about Lennon?

JONES: Once again, on an intellectual level, I think he does feel very sorry, but anyone who watches him in an interview or who speaks with him is amazed, I believe, at the way that he can return at will to the circumstances surrounding the killing, describe the actual details.

He's unlike any other murderer I've ever known, including David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, with that ability to return to the moment of the crime as the -- almost the defining moment his life.

KING: Almost like a broadcaster would cover it.

JONES: Exactly.

KING: How do you define that? What does that key in for you?

JONES: It keys in that here's a very cold, methodical dispassionate person who carried out an incredibly premeditated act of violence.

KING: Do you buy the religious concept?

JONES: Mark David Chapman buys it. Mark believes fully in God as he perceives God to be.

KING: Let me pick that up in a minute. Jack Jones is the guest. The book is "Let Me Take You Down." This is LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.


KING: Our guest is Jack Jones, the author of "Let Me Take You Down." He did a lot of extensive interviews with the Son of Sam, David Berkowitz -- they're very different, right.

JACK JONES, AUTHOR "LET ME TAKE YOU DOWN": Different in some ways, but actually both acts, or both men were carrying out acts of rage against the world.

Berkowitz and Chapman both didn't come out shooting from the outset. They both built up to their acts of violence against other humans by...

KING: But Berkowitz killed indiscriminately and Chapman had a target.

JONES: Right; well, Berkowitz didn't really kill indiscriminately, he was looking for people, specifically people who might have been having sex in cars and looking for women who looked like his mother. He was murdering his mother over and over and over.

KING: And who was Chapman killing? JONES: Some psychologists say he was killing his father but, I think, on a much more relevant level he was killing a part of all of us. He wanted to hurt the world.

Chapman told me at one point that he fantasized about getting his hands on nuclear devices and maybe blowing up a small city, injuring or killing thousands, if not millions, of people -- and reasoned that, by killing someone that most of the people in the world identified with or had been touched by in one way or the other he could hurt us all, and he did.

KING: He says he'll never get out, even though it's 20 to life. Do you agree?

JONES: I don't think he wants to get out. I think the more relevant question here is, would he accept parole if it were offered? And I don't think, particularly if it were offered today or tomorrow, he would get out.

KING: Why?

JONES: I asked David Berkowitz the same question and Berkowitz said, are you kidding me? If they ever put me out of here, of course I'll start killing people again. I belong here.

KING: Do you think Chapman would?

JONES: Chapman is a little bit of a different situation; but I don't think anybody could say whether he might, once again, start obsessing and compulsing about another human being if he were outside of prison and forced to make his own decisions again about the day-to- day things like going to work.

KING: He told me, at the end of the program, after the show, that he was a big fan of mine -- I'm saying this for gratuitous things -- and that he listened and watched all the time; and he told that to you, too, right?

JONES: Right.

KING: If he were out, would you ask me to watch out?

JONES: I don't think that you would necessarily become a target for him. I don't think that any individual, at this point, should be worried about him obsessing on them.

But there, again, with the obsessive, compulsive mind; and not knowing where or if, again, he might ever return again to the, sort of, dark side of the spiritual nature that he feels so close to. It would be a reason for concern.

KING: Do you like him?

JONES: I do like him.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Jack Jones on this night devoted to an incredible saga in history.

Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Jack Jones.

How do you react to those who say that we shouldn't interview the Mark David Chapmans, there shouldn't be television shows or books. We focus attention on the wrong area.

JONES: Probably these are the same kind of people who say we shouldn't be writing about or studying AIDS because it's a very unpleasant, deadly topic.

We have an opportunity, particularly with a guy like Mark Chapman, who has agreed to open himself up for exploration and study, in hopes of preventing other Mark David Chapmans from coming along; and people who criticize journalists for exploring people like that, I think, miss the point.

KING: Do you think he believes he's sincere?

JONES: I'm sure he believes he's sincere.

KING: You're not sure he's sincere, but he is intellectually sincere?

JONES: Intellectually, he is very sincere and I -- yes, I believe he's sincere, too, I just believe that the danger here is that he doesn't realize how deceptive his own mind is.

KING: He's his own worst enemy, this is a classic story.

JONES: Exactly.

KING: You compared him to Hannibal Lecter?

JONES: Well, actually, he compared himself to Hannibal Lecter in a couple of instances. He talked of having almost hypnotized a fellow in a cell next to him in a previous institution where the guy was cursing him, yelling at him; and the fellow went into an epileptic seizure after Mark had talked to him in this slow voice about a cobra that was under his bunk and was crawling up the bunk.

KING: Do you he'd help us prevent future stalkers?

JONES: I think he can. I think that, someday we'll be able to identify sociopaths, just like someday we'll be able to identify what causes AIDS and cancer.

KING: Thanks Jack.

JONES: Thank you.

KING: The book is "Let Me Take You Down." We've devoted the program to it tonight, we hope you found it interesting.

Thanks for joining us, good evening.



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