The John Lennon Murder
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- Format: Folded Tract
- Paper: Gloss Text
- Size: 3.5 inches x 8.5 inches
- Pages: 8
- Version: NIV
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Over three decades ago, the world was shocked to learn of the tragic death of John Lennon, the former Beatle and internationally known rock star. Mark David Chapman was the man who shot and killed him in Manhattan, New York, on the night of December 8, 1980. This is his story, in his own words….
I am not proud of what I have done. Because of my decisions, a man is dead and many people were hurt. I am ashamed of my crime. My purpose for writing this is to explain what happened, and to perhaps show that our decisions—particularly one—are extremely important. Thank you.
It wasn’t particularly cold that long December night, but I dressed in a coat anyway. Pacing back and forth in front of the famed Dakota Apartments on West 72nd Street, I had arrived with one horrible plan in mind: to kill John Lennon!
Why had I thought of such a plan? Why John Lennon?
I continued pacing the narrow strip of asphalt that formed the driveway at the entrance of the building ….
I was born in 1955 in Fort Worth, Texas, the son of David and Diane Chapman. My father was an Air Force sergeant, my mother a nurse. We moved to Indiana, then Decatur, Georgia, where I grew up and went to school. At first, my life was like most everyone else’s. There were some fights at home, and I ran away once to Miami, Florida, but things like this were happening in homes all across America in 1969.
But when I turned 14, my life began to change. Although I did most of the things young people do while growing up, and I was never in any big trouble yet, it was the late 1960s, the drug era, and I began to heavily use drugs. They were the biggest thing to ever come into my life. I loved drugs, and even quit school for months. All I did was do drugs and hang out with my friends. It was great for a while. But no matter what I did, or what I tried, I was never really happy.
IT WAS THE FIRST TIME I HAD SEEN MY FATHER CRY
For about two years, I ran around like this just wanting to have fun in my life. One time I got so high I was arrested at 2 AM trying to find my way home after a rock concert. When my father came to pick me up from jail, he cried. It was the first time I had ever seen him cry.
I used to travel alone a lot during the summers and once, when I was 16 years old, I went to stay at my grandparents’ house in Ormond Beach, Florida, for two weeks. I will never forget one night there. It had been a real bad one. No drugs, no friends, and I felt really lonely. I was empty inside and I knew it. I was hurting. I had been deeply betrayed earlier by someone I thought was a friend.
I remember lying on the sofa in the living room, looking up at the ceiling, the room very quiet. I needed help, and I knew the only thing I had left was to call out to God. But it was all I needed. I said, “God, if You are really there, will You help me?” It was then that something incredible happened. Just moments after I said this, I could feel Jesus in the room with me, just like you would any other person. He was really there—it wasn’t my imagination. It was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced. All those feelings of loneliness and hurt and emptiness came off of me and I knew He would always be with me the rest of my life, no matter what happened. I felt lighter. Calling out and meeting Jesus filled me with a happiness I had never known. I didn’t need drugs anymore! I had finally found what I was looking for.
When I came back home, I began to talk with my friends about what had happened to me.
KNOWING JESUS – I HAD NEVER HEARD
About eight months before this, someone I had met in school named Jim invited me to spend a weekend with his church at a state park. I didn’t want to go, but finally said yes.
The first night there, someone asked me if I wanted to watch a movie, a movie about Jesus. It explained that Jesus wasn’t just a person written about in a book, but someone who was real and could be known. I had heard about Him, that He wasn’t just an ordinary man. But anything religious was not for me. I believed in Jesus—didn’t everyone? But I just thought He was somewhere far away, at a distance. But something was different that night. As I watched the film, I learned things about Jesus I had never known before, that He wanted to be in our lives now, to be with us. I really began to understand Jesus, the real Jesus. This wasn’t religion. No one had ever told me I could actually meet Him, that I could know Him. I had never wanted to have anything to do with God at all, or at least I thought so. And then, finally, on that night alone at my grandparents’ home, as I called out, the real, living Jesus came to me. I knew things would never be the same.
I TURNED FROM WHAT MATTERED MOST—JESUS
I really believed in Jesus, but I was young, and as the months went by, except for the drugs, I went back to my old self and soon grew cold toward Him. He never left me, and whenever I would call out to Him, He would help me, but I started to think about Him less and less.
I graduated from high school, moved to Chicago, then back. My life was now about working at different jobs, driving around in my car, looking for purpose and stability again. It was impossible. I thought at times I was happy, but I wasn’t. I knew it deep down inside me. Something was missing. I had turned from what mattered most—Jesus. Emptiness began to bother me again. I had thrown away all of my new life and I began to run from myself, and from Him ….
I SANK DEEPER AND DEEPER
More months went by. I decided to go away to school in Tennessee, a college where I eventually broke down. I began to feel like a big “nobody.” It was 1975 and I had just come back from a job working with the Vietnamese War refugees and I wanted to do something important with my life. But instead I just sank deeper and deeper into a depression. I didn’t know why it started and it went on for weeks.
I quit school soon after and returned to Georgia. I got a job I thought was right for the nobody I now saw myself as: I became a security guard. First at the Atlanta Airport, then at a county hospital. All I did was work, mostly long night hours. I was miserable. I began to withdraw from everything and started living in my own world … and finding nothing there.
I FELT LIKE I WAS INSIDE A BIG BLACK CLOUD
I grew more and more depressed. It felt as though I were inside a big black cloud. I thought my life had become meaningless. I felt really lost. I began to have fights with my one friend, and arguments with my girlfriend. I cut myself off from everyone else. I couldn’t see where I was going, where I was headed. It was horrible.
Looking back on it now, I can understand why I started thinking about killing myself. When I was 22 years old, I decided to do just that—take my own life. In May of 1977, I sold all of my possessions and bought a one-way plane ticket to Hawaii, where I was going to end it all.
I still remember the short drive I took up the coast of the island, looking for a quiet place to die. Finding a small wooded area near the beach, I attached a cheap vacuum cleaner hose to the exhaust pipe of my rental car and put it carefully through the back hatch. I closed my eyes and sat waiting, expecting my life would be over in minutes.
But nothing happened. A small hole that had burned open from the heat of the hose and a nearby fisherman kept me from killing myself. My true Friend had never left me.
Driving back down the highway, I knew I needed real help. Getting rid of the car, I took a bus to a health clinic where I spoke to a woman and told her what had happened. She quickly drove me to a hospital.
UNDER THEIR CARE MY DARKNESS LIFTED
At the hospital I was admitted to one of their special units and slept for three days. Under their care, my darkness lifted. I began to feel like a person again. Later, I even got a job there. It was an ordinary job, but I felt OK. I was getting better. About a year later, I decided to take a vacation and do something I had only dreamed about, to travel to many countries and experience things and cultures I had never seen before. It was at the travel agency where I planned this trip that I met a wonderful woman, my future wife, Gloria ….
GLORIA: I met Mark in January of 1978. In the beginning of our relationship, when Mark was doing very well, he talked to me about God and the experience he had at his grandparents’ house when he was young. I was surprised at how deeply he talked about these things, and how Jesus had been so real to him that night in the room and afterwards. He explained to me the death of Jesus, what that really meant. That He, as God’s Son, was sent from Heaven to die for us in our place, for all the wrong we had done, and that all we had to do was simply call out to Him and believe in Him and ask for His forgiveness. Those who did this could then really know Him, find a better life here, then one day go to Heaven to be with Him forever when they die. I didn’t understand everything at first, but I did feel what he was explaining to me was true.
To explain more, I grew up in a home where God was not talked about at all, or taught. We did not go to any church or do anything religious. My parents were loving, hardworking people, and I had a very good childhood. But in my teenage years, I wanted to find answers to all of the questions I had. I asked myself things like: Who am I? Why am I here? and What’s going to happen to me after I die? I was searching for the truth about life.
I remember the answers coming when I was about 28 years old. I had been going to church with Mark for about five months, and one day I said out loud to God: “I don’t know if You are real, but if You are, I want to know You.” It was a sincere prayer, and He really began answering it. By the time of my marriage to Mark in June of 1979, I had found Jesus Christ and knew that He was very real. I finally had all the answers I had been seeking … in finding and knowing Jesus.
MARK: Things seemed good then. I had a good job, an incredible place to live, and a beautiful wife to share it all with. But although I had gotten back on my feet, I was still in deep need of help. At the time, however, we didn’t know how badly. Both of our lives, and many others, would be terribly changed the following year, 1980.
I BEGAN RUNNING INTO THE DARKNESS AGAIN
I quit my job to take what I thought was a better job at the hospital, running the printing press there. It wasn’t the job for me and everything soon grew worse. Once more, I left my friends. I began running into the darkness again. Days went by and I felt anxious and troubled. I started drinking more to try to get away from these feelings. It didn’t work. I became a nightmare of alternating rage and insanity. After an argument with one of the hospital supervisors, I was asked to leave the job. I tried to look for another one but couldn’t find anything good. The only thing left for me to do was another security job. It was the beginning of the end for me ….
While sitting alone in our apartment one day looking through some old phonograph records, I came across a photo of John Lennon in one of them. It was then that a horrible thought came into my mind—the thought of killing him. It would be an immediate solution to all my depression and darkness. I would gain instant fame. I would finally be a “somebody.” It was a terrible way to solve my problems, one of pure selfishness, but once I started thinking about it, I couldn’t stop.
I immediately began planning a trip to New York City, learning through a book where he lived. I flew there in the fall of 1980 and waited for him outside of his apartment building. He never showed up, and a few days later I returned home, thinking I could start my life over again somehow.
It didn’t last. My compulsion began to build again, and two months later I bought another one-way ticket to New York. It was the worst decision I would ever make.
10:50 PM, DECEMBER 8, 1980
Onto West 72nd Street, the long white limousine had turned and pulled up to the Dakota’s entrance. John Lennon got out of the big car, carrying recordings from a studio session he and Yoko Ono, his wife, were just returning from. Now he was coming up the driveway … and I was ready.
John looked at me as he walked past. I believe he may have recognized me as the man who earlier that day had approached him and asked for his autograph. He had been very patient and kind to me. Now, alone and in the darkness, as he walked toward the security office, I took out the .38 Special revolver I had hidden in my coat pocket and fired it at his back. He stumbled into the office, Yoko right next to him.
Standing there, waiting for the police to come, as John Lennon lay dying, the doorman came up to me and grabbed my wrist, shaking the gun from my hand. As it fell and hit the asphalt, he kicked it across the driveway and told me to leave. But I couldn’t. I remember turning to him and saying, “But where would I go?”
The police arrived and arrested me and drove me to the precinct. In their holding cell I asked God to turn back time. But I had made my decision—and would pay for it.
I have no real excuse for this murder. I wasn’t on drugs; I wasn’t the obsessed fan some people felt I was in an effort to understand the reason for what happened. I was just so selfish, so lost inside myself, so desperate for a way out, that when I saw an opportunity to become what I thought would be a “somebody,” I decided to end the life of a man I did not even know. I did this coldly and without thinking about anyone else.
IF ONLY I HAD TALKED WITH HIM
In the weeks before the murder, God had spoken deeply to my heart and conscience about my plan to kill John Lennon. But I didn’t listen. I remember calling Gloria late on the night before the murder, and without knowing my plans, she told me I should start talking with Jesus again. If I had wanted, I could have asked Jesus to help me. He was right there. But I chose not to. If only I had talked with Him then. He was the only One Who would have understood ….
CHANGED … BY HIM
Today, I am not the same Mark Chapman. I’m not perfect, but I have stopped running. I was a fool for making selfish decisions to solve my problems. Believe me, there was another way.
When the doorman had asked me to leave the building, I said, “But where would I go?” I have learned the hard lesson that there is only one real place to go—Jesus. He is the one Friend who will never leave you, or fail you. If you call out to Him, He will hear you and He will answer you. If you think there’s no one who knows what you’re going through in life, you’re wrong. Jesus knows—and cares. He is all you need, and will help you with any problem or situation you may have. He will lift you high above the waters and keep you safe. He just wants to be with you. Call out to Him now.
Thank you for reading this. I appreciate your time. I urge you to think about the things I’ve talked about here and consider asking Jesus into your life. Listen to these things Jesus said. They will help you find Him.
“… I will NEVER send away anyone who comes to me.” (John 6:37)
“… I am the way and the truth and the life ...” (John 14:6)
“God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“… I stand at the door and knock. If any of you hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in …” (Revelation 3:20)
Open the door to Jesus. He will come into your life if you want Him to.
Here is a simple prayer you can say:
“Jesus, I call out to You now. Will You help me? Will You forgive me? I’ve done things I knew were wrong against You and others, and I need You. I want YOU in my life. I am tired of this one. You said if I came to You, You would give me rest. I want this peace and rest. I want to MEET You, Jesus. I want You to CHANGE me. I come to You now …. Thank You, Jesus.”
If you spoke with Jesus like this, you are forgiven and can begin living a wonderful life with Him. Get a copy of the Bible. A good place to start is the Gospel of John, which is an eyewitness account of the life of Jesus and the important things He talked about. Talk with others who know and really follow Jesus. Go to a church that makes Jesus and His teachings their priority, and be baptized. Make time to be alone with Jesus and talk with Him about everything.
Tell others about Jesus, and what He has done for you. Because you have believed in Him and called out to Him, your life has changed and you can be content—the real kind of happiness.
Finally, if you are still undecided, think about these things. Don’t forget them. And always remember these few words:
Call out to Jesus.
Ask Him to come into your life.
Ask Him to be with you!
I hope this has been helpful to you. Thank you.
Copyright © 1994 By Don Dickerman Ministries (revised 2017)