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John Lennon's killer denied parole, says he was an 'idiot' for killing Beatle

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 5:15 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
On December 8, 1980, an armed man, Mark Chapman, staked out the Manhattan apartment building where former Beatle John Lennon lived with his wife, Yoko Ono, and their young son. After receiving a signed copy of Lennon's latest album as the singer was leaving his home, Chapman waited until the couple returned to the apartment that night and shot Lennon in the back with a revolver. In this photo taken earlier that year, Lennon and Ono stand outside of the recording studio where he recorded his final album "Double Fantasy." On December 8, 1980, an armed man, Mark Chapman, staked out the Manhattan apartment building where former Beatle John Lennon lived with his wife, Yoko Ono, and their young son. After receiving a signed copy of Lennon's latest album as the singer was leaving his home, Chapman waited until the couple returned to the apartment that night and shot Lennon in the back with a revolver. In this photo taken earlier that year, Lennon and Ono stand outside of the recording studio where he recorded his final album "Double Fantasy."
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Bright light of fame, of infamy, notoriety" of killing Lennon was irresistible, Chapman says
  • "I found my peace in Jesus," he tells the New York parole board
  • Parole commissioners deny Chapman's 8th request for freedom
  • Chapman is serving a 20-years-to-life sentence for murdering John Lennon in 1980

(CNN) -- The bullets that killed Beatle John Lennon were given to Mark David Chapman by an Atlanta police officer who was his friend, Chapman told a parole board as he made his case -- for an eighth time -- to be freed.

Chapman said he sold a Norman Rockwell painting to finance the assassination plot, which he described as "very well thought out." It involved "incredible planning, absolutely, incredible stalking."

Chapman, 59, fired five rounds into Lennon outside New York's Dakota Hotel on the evening of December 8, 1980. But in the 34 years since then, Chapman has found God, he testified to three New York parole commissioners August 20.

Chapman\'s parole was denied for the eighth time.
Chapman's parole was denied for the eighth time.

"I found my peace in Jesus," Chapman said. "I know him. He loves me. He has forgiven me. He has helped in my life like you wouldn't believe."

He also told the parole board that he was "an idiot" for killing Lennon "and choosing the wrong way to glory."

But the "bright light of fame, of infamy, notoriety" was irresistible, he added.

8th bid for release

Chapman's testimony last week was his eighth request for freedom since he became eligible for release under the 20-years-to-life sentence for his second-degree murder conviction.

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The commissioners denied parole as they've done seven times before -- in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012.

The decision said the board found a "reasonable probability that (Chapman) would not live and remain at liberty without again violating the law" and that his release "would be incompatible with the welfare of society and would so deprecate the serious nature of the crime as to undermine respect for the law."

The hearing transcript and the decision were made public Wednesday.

The commissioners questioned Chapman about why he decided to kill Lennon and how he carried out the murder.

"I was confused," he told them. "I needed a lot of attention at that time, and I took it out on him."

Chapman, who was 25 at the time, said his life had "sunk to a depressed state" and he was drinking. "I just saw that as my way out, you know, a lazy way out of my doldrums. It was a horrible decision, but I knew what I was doing."

Decision was made at a young age

The idea of killing Lennon began when he read a book about the Beatles as a child, a time when be was "feeling left out," he said.

"I just said to myself what would happen if I killed him," Chapman said. "I remember that, and then the idea just avalanched on me that this was something I am going to have to do. It grabbed ahold of me and wouldn't let go."

He acknowledged to the board that he had several "alternate targets" to kill, although the names were redacted in the published transcript. The commissioners noted that all of the former targets are now dead.

Retired cop reveals letters from Lennon's killer

The police officer who arrested him showed CNN letters sent to him by Chapman in 1983 saying that actors Marlon Brando and George C. Scott, former first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis and CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite were on his hit list.

He made two trips to New York to stalk and plan, he said. His first trip ended when his wife convinced him to return to their home in Hawaii, where he said he tried to get counseling. "They said that there was a backup and they couldn't see me," Chapman said.

He convinced his wife that he had thrown away his gun and she had no idea his second trip to New York was to kill someone, he said

"I told her I was coming to New York to write a book, a children's book, and that I kind of needed space to find myself and she believed me," Chapman testified. "She really did. I think if she would have thought otherwise she would have stopped somebody or called somebody. I was very convincing."

He sold a Norman Rockwell painting to pay his airfare to New York from Hawaii and his hotel expenses, he said.

Mark David Chapman Fast Facts

Bullets came from police officer

Chapman, who grew up in Atlanta, said he stopped in his hometown on the way. He asked a friend who was an Atlanta police officer for help. "I told him I had the gun, but I couldn't get bullets, and I needed protection while I was in New York," he said. "He gave me five bullets."

Lennon was "very kind" to him when Chapman encountered him before the shooting, even signing a copy of his latest album, he testified.

He knew he "could have turned it around" and not killed Lennon, but he chose not to, he said.

"That bright light of fame, of infamy, notoriety was there," Chapman said. "I couldn't resist it. My self-esteem was shot, and I was looking for an easy way out. It was a bad way out, but it was the way I chose and it was horrible."

Lennon a 'great and talented man'

He told the parole board that he realized the pain he has caused by killing Lennon, who he said was "a great and talented man."

"I am sorry for causing that type of pain," he said. "I am sorry for being such an idiot and choosing the wrong way to glory."

He's no longer seeking notoriety, he said. "Got enough of that. I don't need anymore."

"I am interested in one thing and that's ministering to prisoners," he said. "Me and my wife have a ministry. We distribute brochures that tell people about Christ."

His wife has stood by him for 35 years. She visited last year and is planning to visit later this year, he said.

"I can't believe she stuck with me all these years but she has," he said. "We're 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, but she is still with me."

If freed, he has a job lined up with a New York minister, he said. His skills include fixing wheelchairs, which he does as a prison job, he said.

He told the commissioners he expected them to deny his parole and he understood they are just doing their jobs.

Chapman, who is being held at the Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York, will have another chance for parole in 2016.

Ron Howard to direct Beatles concert documentary

CNN's Marisa Marcellino contributed to this report.

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