John Lennon’s killer wants to spread word of God after 40 years in custody
John Lennon’s killer is still in protective custody – almost 40 years to the day that he shot the Beatles legend.
Mark Chapman has been guarded constantly amid fears he will be murdered by a fellow prisoner seeking fame.
His dream of becoming a preacher if he is ever released could also put him at further risk, it is claimed.
Author Jack Jones – who knows Chapman best – said last night: “If Mark is released, he will not be able to resist the urge to stand up in a church pulpit or some public place and make himself a target of somebody who wants to be known as the guy who killed the guy.
“He’s aware of that, but he might feel it’s a risk he had to take because that’s his mission from God.
“That’s pretty much all he lives for now. Call it a fantasy or a conviction and a spiritual mission, if you will.
“And he’s still in protective custody because there are people in prison who are there for multiple murders and would kill him just for the recognition.”
Chapman was 25 when he used a .38 caliber gun to shoot 40-year-old Lennon four times on December 8, 1980.
The Beatles star was walking into The Dakota – his apartment building in New York City – with wife Yoko Ono when he was murdered.
Chapman calmly stayed on the scene reading The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger’s novel about a confused and disillusioned 16-year-old.
Six hours before his death, Lennon had signed a copy of the album Double Fantasy for Chapman – and a picture of them together later appeared on newspaper front pages.
Chapman was a Beatles fan who idolised Lennon. But after finding God, he was angered by the singer’s 1966 comment that the band were “more popular than Jesus”.
Chapman was given a 20-year to life sentence for the killing and has been denied parole 11 times.
Wardens at the maximum-security Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York, often refer to him simply as Prisoner 81A2860.
At a hearing in August this year, Chapman admitted killing Lennon for “glory”, and said: “I think it’s the worst crime there could be, to do something to someone that’s innocent.
“I didn’t kill him because of his character or the kind of man he was. He was a family man. He was an icon.”
Author Jones believes Chapman later felt a sense of accomplishment.
He said: “As horrible as it was, there was still an element in his mind that said he had pulled it off.
“I mean, ‘Wow, Mom, look what I did, people are paying attention to me now’, and it didn’t matter whether people spoke his name with a sense of horror or a sense of worship.”
Chapman spends his days locked in a 6ft x 8ft cell, playing a guitar and singing. His loyal wife Gloria sometimes visits and they are allowed intimate time in a caravan.
The killer’s infatuation with Lennon has shifted to an obsession with God and he spends his days penning religious pamphlets which Gloria shares with her church.
Jones met Chapman in the early 80s when he was a journalist sitting in on counselling sessions in Attica State Prison.
An associate recommended him to Chapman as someone the killer could talk to.
Jones promised not to print their conversations and Chapman grew to trust him.
He even let the writer pen the 1993 book, Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman.
The pair kept in contact and have conducted a fresh interview for an upcoming Sky documentary.
Jones said Chapman’s new obsession is to spread God’s word.
He said: “I think he does have these compulsive, obsessive sorts of habits. I don’t think they would manifest again in the act of murder.
“Mark is part of the evangelical movement, albeit removed. His wife publishes a religious news tract to members of their little church.”
Gloria has previously told how Chapman admitted wanting to kill Lennon two months before the actual shooting.
She said: “He came home scared, telling me that to make a name for himself he planned to kill Lennon.
“But he said my love had saved him.”
Later, Gloria was in no doubt who was responsible when news of Lennon’s death flashed up on TV.
Yoko Ono, now 87, has campaigned to keep Chapman behind bars, fearing he poses a risk to her family.
With so many parole denials, it seems unlikely Chapman will ever be released. The most compelling argument to keep Chapman in prison is his mental stability and the fear that his compulsions could return.
Jones believes Chapman is serving a longer sentence because of who he killed.
The 2018 parole board referred to Lennon as a “world-renowned person… loved by millions”.
Jones said: “If he had killed somebody like you or me he would have been released at least 25 years ago for good behaviour in New York State.
“But because of who he killed, he’s still in prison 40 years later.
“He lives his life in a cell with a toilet and I think maybe he has the amenity of a little electric water pot so he can boil water for tea and things like that.
“He has a guitar and is actually quite a good vocalist and guitar player.”
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And explaining why he wrote a book about Chapman, Jones said: “My main reason was the hope that it would bring a clearer understanding to people who might be in a position to prevent future tragedies.
“Both Mark and I have received letters from people who, after reading the book, said they had contemplated a similar crime but decided not to do it after reading my book, so that’s the main thing I feel good about.
“You know the next Mark Chapman is out there somewhere if we don’t do all we can to understand them, find them and stop them right now.”