Mark Chapman & the Killing of John Lennon
On the night of Monday, 8 December 1980, Lennon was shot dead by Mark David Chapman in the archway of the Dakota, his residence in New York City. Lennon had just returned from Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono.
After sustaining four major gunshot wounds, Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital. There, personnel stated that nobody could have lived longer than a few minutes after sustaining such injuries. Shortly after local news stations reported Lennon's death, crowds gathered at Roosevelt Hospital and in front of the Dakota. Lennon was cremated at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York two days after his death; the ashes were given to Ono, who chose not to hold a funeral for him. The first media report of Lennon's death to a U.S. national audience was announced by sportscaster Howard Cosell, on ABC's Monday Night Football.
Chapman pleaded guilty to the murder of Lennon and was sentenced to 20-years-to-life imprisonment. He has remained in prison ever since, having been denied parole nine times amidst campaigns against his release after he became eligible in 2000.
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. 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...