Mark David Chapman grew up the unhappy son of a military family. As a child, he developed several obsessions, which included imaginary friends, religion, the Beatles, and Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. He became fascinated with suicide and attempted to kill himself in 1977. Failing, he received treatment for depression. He took a trip around the world in 1978, married his travel agent in 1979, and was sporadically employed in service jobs. His delusions returned, if they had ever been absent, and this time, they turned outward, toward his idol, John Lennon.
Shortly before 11 p.m. on December 8, 1980, Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono were returning from the recording studio to their residence at the Dakota Apartments. Chapman crouched and fired five shots into Lennon’s back, then calmly opened Catcher and read until police arrested him. Lennon died on the way to the hospital.
On June 22, 1981, Chapman pled guilty in a highly unusual closed courtroom proceeding. At his sentencing hearing on August 24, when asked if he had anything to say, Chapman rose and read a passage from The Catcher in the Rye.
Chapman became eligible for parole in 2000. He remains in prison after seven denials by the parole board.