December 8

This Day in History

Crime

Dec 8, 1980:

John Lennon is murdered

Singer John Lennon is shot and killed by Mark David Chapman outside his apartment building in New York City. After committing the murder, Chapman waited calmly outside, reading a copy of The Catcher in the Rye.

Chapman was a troubled individual who was obsessed with Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of J. D. Salinger's novel about a disaffected youth, and with various celebrities. While working as a security guard in Hawaii, he decided that Lennon was a phony and, while listening to Beatles tapes, Chapman decided to plan his murder.

Chapman purchased a gun in Hawaii and then traveled to New York. Although he called his wife to tell her that he was in New York to shoot Lennon, she ignored his threats. Unable to buy bullets in New York due to strict laws, Chapman flew to Atlanta and purchased hollow-nosed rounds to bring back.

On the day of the murder, Chapman bought an extra copy of The Catcher in the Rye and joined fans waiting outside The Dakota, Lennon's apartment building. That evening, as Lennon walked by on his way into the building, Chapman shot him in the back and then fired two additional bullets into his shoulder as the singer wrenched around in pain.

On June 8, 1980, just two weeks before he was scheduled to present an insanity defense at trial, Chapman pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 20 years-to-life. Ironically, Chapman was sent to Attica prison, where--10 years earlier--rioting had inspired Lennon and wife, Yoko Ono, to record a benefit song to "free all prisoners everywhere." In prison, Chapman became a born-again Christian and spent his time writing evangelical tracts for publication.

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