It's been almost 35 years since that fateful day on Dec. 8, 1980 ,when Mark David Chapman fired shots that echoed around the globe as they killed one of the world's most beloved singer-songwriters in ex-Beatle, John Lennon. But in Chapman's eighth parole board hearing this Wednesday, he told the New York state parole board that although he took Lennon's life in search of self-fame and notoriety, his life is no longer controlled by selfish demons and is now solely focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. Despite that claim, Chapman was again denied parole.
Chapman, who read a book on the Beatles when he was a child that had inspired him to become "somebody important or better," was lulled into a stark drunken depression in his life, unfulfilled as a security guard working in Hawaii. Upset because his childhood dreams of fame hadn't panned out, he stumbled across a picture of John Lennon and wondered "what would happen if I kill him?"
What happened was Chapman, now 59 years old, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years to life in a New York prison about 25 miles west of Buffalo and nearly 5,000 miles away from his wife. Having been denied parole eight times now, it is looking like Chapman may be there for life. Although Chapman has been able to sit and think about the heinousness of the premeditated murder he committed, that time has also allowed him to apparently come to Christ.
"I had extremely selfish motives for my own self-glory. Thats the best way I can say it," Chapman told the board, according to the parole hearing transcript. "My focus is totally, it isn't on me anymore. God has helped me through the years to see, 'hey, there is other people in this world.' Jesus has helped me to see that he loves me, and that is what has made the difference in my life is him."
Chapman said that what helped lead him back into the light of God, was a series of letter exchanges between him and a pastor. Since the release of the parole report protects private identities, the name of the pastor was blacked out. But, at the beginning of Chapman's sentence, he had received a letter from this pastor. Although it took Chapman a year and half before he would respond to the letter, over the last 33 years Chapman has written over an estimated 500 letters to this pastor who has helped him with spiritual guidance. Chapman said he meets with him every now and again and is scheduled to meet with him in a few weeks.
Chapman said there is only one purpose in his life now: preach about the love of Jesus Christ to prisoners. Chapman says his ministry is designed to let all the prisoners that come in and have the chance to get released know there is a different type of life to be had than the one they entered prison with. That is life with Jesus. He said he wants them to know that Jesus was sent to Earth "so that we could have a good life here and be forgiven for anything we've done so that we can have a better life after we go."
"I am interested in one thing and that is ministering to prisoners," Chapman said. "Me and my wife have a ministry. We distribute brochures and tell people about Christ. These kids coming in here now, they can have an option. They don't have to go to the gangs. They can find another way of life. That's what we're into. We have been for a long time. That's where my heart is. Believe me, I am interested in no press whatsoever."
Chapman and his wife, Gloria, despite living halfway across the globe from one another, are still married. She tries to visit about once a year from Honolulu. Although she can't physically be with him except for her short visits, she still plays a major role in Chapman's faith. Although It is not all that common for "significant others" to stay married to an inmate especially after three decades, Chapman thanks Jesus for her commitment.
"I can't believe she has stuck with me for all these years but she has," Chapman said. "We are closer to the Lord now than we were on the street. So I am going to credit him with keeping our marriage together and our sanity."
Chapman's parole was denied primarily because of the premeditated nature of Chapman's act. Although Chapman was adamant that he has no reason to commit another murder because he already has the fame he was searching for, the parole felt he could not "live and remain at liberty without again violating the law" and his release would be undermining the law.