Aired September 30, 2000 – 9:00 p.m. ET
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, it’s been nearly 20 years since Mark David Chapman gunned down former Beatle John Lennon. Now he’s up for parole. Chapman talked with me in Attica in 1992. An encore presentation of that gripping interview with John Lennon’s killer is next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Twelve years ago, shots rang out in front of the Dakota in New York City. The victim was an icon for a generation. The gunman was Mark David Chapman.
As fans continue to mourn the loss of former Beatle John Lennon, many continue to wonder about the man who killed him, someone who was also a Beatles fan, someone who requested Lennon’s autograph on the very night he pulled the trigger.
After more than a decade in prison, the assassin says he’s rid of the demons that drove him to kill and ready to tell his story. Chapman sat for hours of interviews with the author of a new book, “Let Me Take You Down,” which chronicles his life and his crime.
Mark David Chapman joins us from Attica Correctional Facility on this, the 12th anniversary of John Lennon’s death.
Mark, why now? Why tell the story now?
MARK DAVID CHAPMAN, JOHN LENNON’S ASSASSIN: Well, Larry, I’m well now. I’ve had a number of years of wellness. I feel good. There’s always been things inside of me that I wanted to get and tell me why I did what I did.
KING: Did you contact the writer or he you? How did the book come about?
CHAPMAN: I met Jack Jones through a prison volunteer service group here, Sefus (ph) Attica. I talked to the late director, Harold Steele, of that group, and I wanted somebody to talk to. I was going through a number of years of their basic isolation, no visits except for my wife, Gloria. And I asked to see somebody. He brought Jack Jones in. I didn’t know he was a reporter for the local paper. I kind of freaked out. And after we got to talking, he promised me everything we talked about would be off the record, and he kept that promise for a number of years.
About two years ago, on the 10th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, I contacted him formally and said, I’ve got to say something. I’ve got to come out with something. I was being hounded by the press all over, Larry, you know international.
CHAPMAN: So I wanted to do a statement, just a one-paragraph, simple, cut-and-dry statement. And he thought about that and said, Mark, we’re going to have to talk a little bit about this. So I went back up to my cell and I prayed, and — that’s what I usually do when I have to make a pretty tough decision, I pray about it — and I came back down the next day, and I said, let’s go with whatever you want to do. So he wrote a two-part article for “The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle,” which was printed worldwide in different languages. And it seemed to be received very well.
CHAPMAN: And that’s how we hooked up, through that article.
KING: All right, your sentence was what, 20 years to life?
CHAPMAN: Twenty years to life.
KING: You have served how long now, Mark?
CHAPMAN: Twelve years to the day, this day.
KING: You’re eligible at 20 years for parole?
CHAPMAN: I’m eligible for parole in eight years.
KING: OK, do you have expectations about that? How do you — Your how old now?
KING: OK, how do you deal with the 20 years to life. So you know you’re going to be there until you’re 45?
KING: All right, how do you deal with that period of time? You know definitely you’re going to be there another eight years. In time frame, how do you deal with that?
CHAPMAN: As a lifer, which is what we call ourselves across the country, people who are in prison for murder or worse, and who are doing life will try to take it a day at a time. And that’s what I do. I’ve learned to do that. You naturally learn to do that through the years. If you don’t…
KING: OK, a day at a time.
CHAPMAN: You’re in trouble.
KING: All right. CHAPMAN: You have to do it a day at a time.
KING: You don’t set a goal, you don’t say, boy, eight years from tomorrow I’m going to walk out of here and do this?
CHAPMAN: No, I don’t think about the board. I don’t think about eight years from now. That’s not any prerogative right now.
KING: Well when you live daily, then, do you set daily goals? Do you say, like, today I am going to finish this book, write this thing?
CHAPMAN: Yes. I write now. I write Christian short stories. One of them is in the back of Jack’s book. It’s called “The Prisoner’s Letter.” That took me three years. I’ve just started a new one. I don’t know when that’s going to be through, but that’s the goal right now is finish this next story. That’s it.
KING: Are you saying, Mark, that the young man who shot John Lennon was not you? What are you saying?
CHAPMAN: It was me, Larry, and I accept full responsibility for what I did. I’ve seen places where I’m blaming the devil, and I hope that that isn’t kept going after this interview. I’m not blaming the devil, I’m blaming myself. But in the major sense, it wasn’t me, because I’m better now. I’m normal, I’m functioning, I have a lovely wife, and we have a great marriage — as much as, you know, can be had from here, from Attica.
But I’m not the same person in the major sense, because back then I was lost and I didn’t know who I was. But now I do.
KING: All right. So it was you, but the personality of you is different now?
CHAPMAN: Well I didn’t have a personality then, and I do now. I’ve realized…
KING: All right, who was Mark David Chapman?
CHAPMAN: On December 8, 1980 Mark David Chapman was a very confused person. He was literally living inside of a paperback novel, J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.” He was vacillating between suicide, between catching the first taxi home, back to Hawaii, between killing, as you said, an icon.
KING: By the way, would you have killed someone else you think? Would Mark David have done that if it weren’t Lennon?
CHAPMAN: The Secret Service asked me that. If Lennon would have unfortunately died a few days prior, say, in an automobile accident, would you have stalked someone else? I can’t answer that question. I don’t know. I was so bonded with John Lennon at that point, what I told them is I’d probably be crushed. And at that point, I don’t know what I would have done.
KING: Therefore, you have to have daily regrets.
CHAPMAN: I have regrets. I’m sorry for what I did. I realize now that I really ended a man’s life. Then, he was an album cover to me. He didn’t exist, even when I met him earlier that day when he signed the album for me, which he did very graciously. And he was not a phony, by the way. He was very patient, and he was very cordial and he asked me if there was anything else. So if that didn’t register — and I also met his son that day. If that didn’t register that he was a human being, then I wasn’t perceiving him as such. I just saw him as a two-dimensional celebrity with no real feelings.
KING: OK, why did Mark David Chapman want to shoot the album cover?
CHAPMAN: Mark David Chapman at that point was a walking shell who didn’t ever learn how to let out his feelings of anger, of rage, of disappointment. Mark David Chapman was a failure in his own mind. He wanted to become somebody important, Larry. He didn’t know how to handle being a nobody. He tried to be a somebody through his years, but as he progressively got worse — and I believe I was schizophrenic at the time. Nobody can tell me I wasn’t — although I was responsible, Mark David Chapman struck out at something he perceived to be phony, something he was angry at, to become something he wasn’t, to become somebody.
KING: We’ll talk about that day, 12 years ago today, that night in New York City, with Mark David Chapman, subject of a major new book, from Attica Prison in New York.
We’ll be right back.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE, with Mark David Chapman.
Mark, will you relive with us those terrible moments for you, for the world, for a lot of people around and in circles closest to John Lennon?
What happened that night?
CHAPMAN: Well, if you want to pick it up from the night, I was standing there with a gun in my pocket.
KING: You knew you were going to shoot him?
KING: Knew you were going to shoot him?
CHAPMAN: Tried not to, praying not to, but knowing down deep it was probably going to come to that. KING: Did you know it would be that night? Did you know you would see him again?
CHAPMAN: Yes, I knew that morning, oddly, when I left the hotel. I had some type of premonition that this was the last time I was going to leave my hotel room. I hadn’t seen him up to that point, that’s what makes it interesting. I wasn’t even sure he was in the building.
And then I left the hotel room, bought a copy of “The Catcher in the Rye,” signed it to Holden Caulfield from Holden Caulfield, and wrote underneath that “This is my statement,” underlining the world “this,” the emphasis on the word this. I had planned not to say anything after the shooting. Walked briskly up Central Park West to 72nd Street and began milling around there with fans that were there, Jude and Jerry, and later a photographer that came there.
KING: And then John came out that day, right?
CHAPMAN: He came out. I was leaning against a gargoyle-studded railing and was looking down, I was reading “The Catcher in the Rye,” and I believe he got into a taxi and disappeared. And then later that day, I had gone to lunch with, I believe, Jude. We came back.
KING: With who?
CHAPMAN: With Jude. She was a fan there…
CHAPMAN: … that was there at the building, and we struck up a conversation about Hawaii, about John Lennon. She had been there a number of times. And at one point during the day, she had left, and John came back out. I don’t remember him going back in from the taxi, but he was obviously back there the building.
He was doing an RKO radio special, and he came out of the building and the photographer that I mentioned earlier, Paul Gores, he kind of pushed me forward and said, here’s your chance. You know, you’ve been waiting all day. You’ve come from Hawaii to have him sign your album. Go, go.
And I was very nervous and I was right in front of John Lennon instantly, and I had a black, Bic pen and I said, John, would you sign my album. And he said sure. Yoko went and got into the car, and he pushed the button on the pen and started to get to it write. It was a little hard to get to write at first. Then he wrote his name, John Lennon, and underneath that, 1980.
And he looked at me ,as I mentioned earlier, he said, is that all? Do you want anything else? And I felt then and now that he knew something subconsciously that he was looking into the eyes of the person that was going kill him. KING: How do you — why do you think that?
CHAPMAN: Well, his wife was in the car. The door was opened, and he’s a busy man. He’s going to go to a radio or to his record studio, and he’s talking to a nobody, just signing an album for a nobody, and he’s asking me, is that all I want. I mean, he’s giving me the autograph. I don’t have a camera on me. What could I give him?
KING: I would admit that is a strange thing to say. All right. So he leaves?
CHAPMAN: Yes, he leaves there. A car.
KING: And what do you do the rest of the day?
CHAPMAN: I stand around, like an idiot, waiting for him to come back.
KING: And what time did he came back?
CHAPMAN: He came back about 10 to 11 at night.
KING: Had you eaten dinner?
CHAPMAN: No, I had not.
KING: Feared you might have missed him?
KING: Knew you were going shoot him.
KING: How did that happen? What happened?
CHAPMAN: Well, the photographer left. I — in all fairness I have to say I tried to get him to stay.
CHAPMAN: Because there were those that felt I wanted him to shoot pictures of the shooting, which is not true.
KING: Why, then, did you want him to stay?
CHAPMAN: I wanted him to stay because I wanted out of there. There was a part — a great part of me that didn’t want to be there. I asked Jude the fan before she left for a date that night. She said no. If she’d have said yes, I would have been on date with her.
KING: But you might have killed him the next day.
CHAPMAN: Oh, yes. I would have probably come back.
KING: The circumstances of the killing, what happened?
CHAPMAN: I was sitting on the inside of the arch of the Dakota Building. And it was dark. It as windy. Jose, the doorman, was out along the sidewalk. And here’s another odd thing that happened. I was at an angle where I could see Central Park West and 72nd and I see this limousine pull up and, as you know, there are probably hundreds of limousines that turn up Central Park West in the evening, but I knew that was his.
And I said, this is it, and I stood up. The limousine pulled up, the door opened, the rear left door opened. Yoko got out. John was far behind, say 20 feet, when he got out. I nodded to Yoko when she walked by me.
KING: Did she nod back?
CHAPMAN: No, she didn’t. And I don’t mean to be so clinical about this, but I’ve told it a number of times. I hope you understand. John came out, and he looked at me, and I think he recognized, here’s the fellow that I signed the album earlier, and he walked past me. I took five steps toward the street, turned, withdrew my Charter Arms .38 and fired five shots into his back.
KING: All in his back?
CHAPMAN: All in his back.
KING: Never saw it coming?
CHAPMAN: He never saw anything coming, Larry. It was a very quick — it was a rough thing.
KING: What — had you shot that weapon before?
CHAPMAN: That weapon, no. I didn’t even know if the bullets were going to work, and when they worked, I remember thinking, they’re working they’re working. I was worried that the plane in the baggage compartment, the humidity had ruined them, and I remember thinking, they’re working.
KING: What did Yoko do?
CHAPMAN: She naturally, and I can’t blame her. She dashed around the stair area. I don’t know if it’s still there at the Dakota today, but she just, you know, ran for cover, which is what anyone would do. John, according to what I’ve been told, stumbled up the stairs, and then I saw her come back around and then go up to the stairs and then she cradled his body.
KING: Did he — she scream?
CHAPMAN: I don’t think she screamed, but a few minutes after that there was just a blood-curdling scream from someone and it put the hair on the back of my neck straight up.
KING: Were you relieved? CHAPMAN: No. I — what happened was I was in a — what happened before the shooting, before I pulled the trigger and after were two different scenes in my mind.
Before, everything was like dead calm. And I was ready for this to happen. I even heard a voice, my own, inside me say do it, do it, do it. You know, here we go.
And then afterwards, it was like the film strip broke. I fell in upon myself. I like went into a state of shock. I stood there with the gun hanging limply down at my right side and Jose the doorman came over and he’s crying, and he’s grabbing and he’s shaking my arm and he shook the gun right out of my hand, which was a very brave thing to do to an armed person. And he kicked the gun across the pavement, had somebody take it away and I was just — I was stunned.
I didn’t know what to do. I took “The Catcher in the Rye” out of my pocket. I paced. I tried to read it. I just couldn’t wait, Larry until those police got there. I was just devastated.
KING: Hold it right there. Mark. We’ll be right back with Mark David Chapman. He’s in the Attica Correctional Institute in New York state. We’ll be right back.
KING: J.D. Salinger, who has not been heard from in years — he’s reclusive — wrote “Catcher in the Rye,” a book read by millions, admired by millions. I wonder what he must be thinking as he — if he is watching this.
Mark, why are you blaming a book?
CHAPMAN: I’m not blaming a book. I blame myself for crawling inside of the book and I certainly want to say that J.D. Salinger and “The Catcher in the Rye” didn’t cause me to kill John Lennon. In fact, I wrote to J.D. Salinger, I got his box number from someone, and I apologized to him for this.
I feel badly about that. It’s my fault. I crawled in, found my pseudo-self within these pages…
KING: In Holden.
CHAPMAN: … and played out the whole thing.
KING: But Holden wasn’t violent.
CHAPMAN: Holden wasn’t violent, but he had a violent thought of shooting someone, of emptying a revolver into this fellow’s stomach, someone that had done him wrong.
But you’re right; he was basically a very sensitive person and he probably would not have killed anybody as I did. But that’s fiction and reality was standing in front the Dakota.
KING: What, Mark, got you better? What cured, what you believe, was schizophrenia?
CHAPMAN: Well, not medication and not doctors, but the Lord. I’ve walked in the power of the Lord now for a number of years.
KING: How did that happen?
CHAPMAN: Well, I became a Christian when I was 16, Larry, and that lasted about a year of genuine walking with him.
Through my life, off and on, I have struggled with different things, as we all do, and at those times I would turn to the Lord. The night of the death of John Lennon I was far from him. I wasn’t listening to him. I wasn’t reading the Bible anymore.
Today I’m different. I read the Bible. I pray, and I walk with him. He forgives me. He doesn’t condone what I did — and that’s a very important thing — he didn’t like what I did 12 years ago. He didn’t like all the pain I caused everybody, especially John’s widow.
But he forgives me and he hears me and he listens to me, and he is the one, all these years, that has brought me out of the abyss, not medications or counseling. I, basically, had to counsel myself through these years, not that it’s not available here, but I’ve been very private about this. This is not anything that’s easy to live with.
KING: How do you know it isn’t a crutch?
CHAPMAN: Well, in a way, it’s got to be a crutch, because we all need a crutch. Life is not easy and life, for me, isn’t easy.
And, therefore, I think the Lord is, has a tender spot in his heart for prisoners. He said so. The rest of the Bible says so in many different places. And I’ve leaned on him — if it’s a crutch, I’ve been leaning on a crutch, but it’s a crutch made out of the cross, because without that I probably wouldn’t be alive today because I was very suicidal and I certainly wouldn’t be in a well state of mind, not without him.
KING: Did you have, prior to the conversion to the Lord, remorse?
CHAPMAN: Well, I converted to the Lord at 16, before the shooting. I know a lot of people have a hard time understanding that — how could someone who is quote-unquote born again shoot someone.
And my answer to that is, after thinking about it deeply: If you were God, you wouldn’t want a bunch of robots running around. He gives us free will. We are free agents. We can do what we want. He specifically told me — I don’t want to sound like one of those preachers on TV, but he told my heart, let’s put it that way — he told my heart and he let me know, don’t kill. I don’t want you to kill. He doesn’t like murder; the first baby born was a murderer.
But I chose to kill someone. I went against what he wanted me to do. KING: Let me get a break, Mark, and we’ll come right back. We’ll spend some more moments with Mark David Chapman.
This is LARRY KING LIVE.
Don’t go away.
KING: We have more of our 1992 interview with John Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman coming up; but first, the words of Yoko Ono. I sat down with Lennon’s widow late last year, shortly before the 19th anniversary of her husband’s death.
I asked Yoko if she could ever find it in her heart to forgive Chapman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE,” DECEMBER 4, 1999)
YOKO ONO: Larry, I’m just blocking that. You know, I don’t want to know about it, really.
KING: So you don’t think one way or the other about it?
ONO: No, I mean, it may be wrong that I’m not confronting that particular issue, but, I mean, it really is very hard for me.
KING: So you’ve blocked that out completely?
ONO: Well, I have to survive. I have to live, and I don’t want to fall into a kind of depression that takes me nowhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We’re back on LARRY KING LIVE with Mark David Chapman.
Let’s touch a couple other bases, Mark. Do you expect to get out in eight years?
CHAPMAN: No, I don’t.
KING: You’re not — do you expect to stay there for life?
CHAPMAN: I don’t know about that. That’s up to the parole division here in the state of New York.
CHAPMAN: I certainly don’t think they’re going let me out on the parole date. They — because of the nature of the crime, because of a man has died…
CHAPMAN: … they generally don’t let you go right away.
KING: But it was second-degree murder you pled to, right?
CHAPMAN: Yes, it was. I pled guilty.
KING: So they — now they determined it was not premeditated.
CHAPMAN: Well, it was definitely premeditated.
KING: Then why second degree?
CHAPMAN: That is within the second degree. I think this state doesn’t have a first-degree murder except on the books, in the case of the killing of a police officer.
KING: Yes. How are you treated at that infamous place? Attica, while maybe it got its rap badly when they had the riots, but Attica is known as one of the tough-duty prisons.
CHAPMAN: It’s a maximum-security prison. It’s not the same prison as it was those years ago. I’m treated humanely. I’m eating well, as you can see. I am treated — once the officers get to know me, they see I’m just like everybody else, if that can be imagined, and I’m treated decently. I don’t have any problem here in that area. I’m not beaten or tortured.
KING: Are you in a cell alone?
CHAPMAN: Every prisoner in Attica has his own cell. That’s one of the good things about Attica.
KING: What kind of room are you in now?
CHAPMAN: I’m in a probably a 6 by 8 cell. I’m — by the way, I have a job. I’m let out every morning at 6:30, and I work throughout the day.
CHAPMAN: My job is called kitchen man. I help set up the meals for the inmates that are here in this particular building. And I do other things, too, but basically my job is in the kitchen?
KING: What do you make of all the conspiracy theories that have come up in the last 12 years, CIA, mind control, et cetera?
CHAPMAN: Against the death of John Lennon?
KING: No one asked you to do it? No one prompted you to do it? No cabal, nothing? CHAPMAN: No, they probably wished they would have had me, Larry, but they didn’t. It was me doing it, it wasn’t them.
KING: Do you — this is kind of perverse, I guess. Do you have fans? Do people write to you?
CHAPMAN: Well, I don’t call them fans, but there are people that — they write to me. I got a letter yesterday. I guess you wouldn’t call the fellow a fan, but he said, I hereby declare on this date that you will not die a natural death.
And then another fellow sent me a package, a book, a Christian book, written by Dr. Henry Cloud. And it’s a book on healing. It’s a book on looking into your past. And I think I’ll read it. So I’m getting both — I’m getting both ends of the spectrum, the extreme hate, which I understand, and the compassion, the understanding.
The people that have read the book have seen, hey, this was a monstrous act, but perhaps not done by a typical monster.
KING: Do you get romantic letters?
CHAPMAN: Everything, Larry. I get every possible thing you could imagine.
KING: Yes, girls. The treatment by the other prisoners — good?
CHAPMAN: I’m upstairs with three other inmates, and they’re carefully screened. And most of them are going home very soon….
KING: How do you feel about…
CHAPMAN: … and I don’t have…
KING: They’re nice to you?
CHAPMAN: They’re very nice to me.
KING: You haven’t had any brawls or anything.
KING: How about homosexualty attacks?
CHAPMAN: None, zero.
KING: None at all? None threatened?
CHAPMAN: It doesn’t happen in this building.
KING: Because it’s tightly secure?
CHAPMAN: Tightly secure.
KING: OK, there was another — remember the guy who stalked Rebecca Schaeffer, the actress, and killed her also said he was reading “Catcher in the Rye,” and there have been other copycatters. What are your thoughts about them?
CHAPMAN: I regret that the most, because John Lennon wasn’t the only person to die because of this. There were suicides after, which I deeply regret.
KING: And there’s celebrity stalking?
CHAPMAN: And there’s celebrity stalking. I’d love to talk about that, Larry. So it didn’t end with the death of John Lennon. And that’s — you know, you keep paying for this over and over when you hear of the death of a celebrity. And maybe they’ve got “The Catcher In The Rye,” as John Hinckley did…
KING: Tell me why do you think…
CHAPMAN: A copy in his Washington hotel room.
KING: Why do you think people stalk celebrities?
CHAPMAN: People stalk celebrities — and this is just my opinion. I haven’t studied psychology — because they have nothing inside themselves. Their esteem is rock bottom. And they feel that by writing fan letters or actually coming in close contact with a celebrity, they feel important.
I know that I did some of those things before the thought of John Lennon, or killing John Lennon, came into my mind. I went to an art gallery, and Robert Goulet was there and Leslie Nielsen was there. And I just wanted to be around them. And I had my picture taken with Robert Goulet — I don’t think this has ever come out. And I felt important while I was with them. And then after, you disintegrate again. You become nothing.
So if you have nothing to start with, and your life consists of fantasizing about celebrities or being with them, that can become very dangerous. And that is a phenomenon in this country now that has to be addressed. That’s why the Secret Service has been talking with me and other people to try and find out what was ticking in this thing here on that night and before. I’m meeting with them Friday, by the way.
KING: With the Secret Service?
KING: Are they going to talk to you about protecting Clinton?
CHAPMAN: They’ve asked me about presidential candidates. If there are so many bodyguards, would that have prevented you? And my answer to that is no. I still would have probably struck out at John Lennon if he had 20 bodyguards. I was that desperate.
KING: When the incident with Goulet, which you have not revealed before, taking the picture with him and you felt like someone, were you conscious of it at the time? Were you conscious while taking the picture, I felt like someone, and then when removed felt like less? CHAPMAN: Sure.
KING: You were?
CHAPMAN: Yes, I remember was rude to him, Larry. I touched his shoulder, and he kind of turned back to me and said, like, you know, what’s this? You know, can’t you see I’m trying to have a conversation?
People like me at that time, the way I was at that time, they don’t think of other people. They’re not polite. They’re just, let me have my autograph or let me have my picture taken…
KING: Yes, we all…
CHAPMAN: They don’t think of the people as people.
KING: Anyone who gets attention sees this. Is there anything you could say to a celebrity to do about it?
CHAPMAN: To contact someone. There’s — I think Gavin DeBecker (ph) is the person to contact. I couldn’t tell them what to do, except don’t egg on anybody. I think that’s what Rebecca Schaeffer did, if I’m not mistaken. She wrote back to Bardo — not that she’s to blame for her death — but she wrote back to Bardo, and she said, you know, thank you. That was the most wonderful fan letter I’ve ever gotten. I would discourage that.
I would more likely want to addresses the stalkers and say, look, you’ve got to talk to somebody. If you don’t talk to somebody, you’re going to end up like me.
KING: Have any of them ever contacted you, Bardo or anybody?
CHAPMAN: First time I’ve ever said this, Larry. Robert Bardo wrote me three letters. I don’t have them anymore. I tore them up. They were very deranged letters.
KING: After he killed her?
CHAPMAN: This was before, Larry.
KING: Before he killed her?
CHAPMAN: Yes, but he did not mention killing anyone, and he did not mention Rebecca Schaeffer by name.
KING: Did he leave a return address?
CHAPMAN: Yes, he did.
KING: Did you turn it over to authorities?
CHAPMAN: Yes, I did. Someone, a Christian worker here, had a Christian group contact him and send him some materials. He wrote me back and said, that’s doing me no good. You see, we’re free agent. We make those choices.
KING: OK, why didn’t the authorities do something about him?
CHAPMAN: Well, again, he wasn’t saying he was going to kill anyone. He was just asking me questions. What is it like to be in prison? But very, very deranged letters. And, Larry, I got frightened. I tore them up.
CHAPMAN: When I was watching the news, that news came on, and I went, my god, that’s the same fellow that wrote to me. I told someone about it because I couldn’t contain it, then tore up the letters because I don’t want any part of either being for or against this man for what he did. He will have to stand alone on that, but I did receive mail from him, yes.
KING: One other thing, Mark. If it weren’t Lennon, could it have been Goulet? Could it have been Goulet? Could it have been Sinatra? Could it have been Paul McCartney?
CHAPMAN: Probably not one of the other Beatles. This thing started, Larry, when I got angry at Lennon. I found a book in the library that showed him on the roof of the Dakota, and you’re familiar with the Dakota, it’s a very nice, sumptuous building. And, remember I’m in a different state of mind and I’m falling in on myself, and I’m angry at seeing him on the Dakota and I say to myself, that phony, that bastard.
And I got that mad. I took the book home to my wife and I said, look, he’s a phony. It started with anger. It didn’t start with a person walking down the street saying gee, I wish I was famous. This thing, you know, in fairness wasn’t all about becoming a pseudo- celebrity. It was borne of anger and rage and that’s what happened.
KING: Might it have been anger then at a president? Did it have to be…
CHAPMAN: It could have been anger at a president.
KING: Or a broadcaster?
CHAPMAN: It could have been anger at a broadcaster. It could have happened that way very easily, but I think because it was Lennon, because my past — Jack gets into this in the book deeply. My past was very rooted in Lennon. I believed in the things he was saying, and I believe he did too, by the way. I don’t think he’s a phony anymore.
KING: Do you listen to his music?
CHAPMAN: If it’s on the radio I’ll listen to it. I did have some tapes, but recently, let’s say two months ago, I had to get rid of them. I just didn’t want them in my cell.
KING: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for giving us this time. CHAPMAN: Thank you very much, Larry, I appreciate it.
KING: Mark David Chapman, from Attica Correctional Institution in upstate New York. This is LARRY KING LIVE. We’ll be right back.
KING: We’re back. Journalist Jack Jones has made a habit of probing the criminal mind. His latest subject is John Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman, who we just spent most of this program with.
Jones’ examination of Chapman reveals various sides of a complicated and disturbed man. A caring relief worker who aided Vietnamese refugees, a bashful Georgia boy who volunteers at the local Y, a suicidal alcoholic, a deadly celebrity stalker.
“Let Me Take You Down” is available from Billard Books and takes us inside the crime and the criminal. The author joins us here in Washington.
We just spent 40 minutes with Chapman, removed somewhat by satellite in Attica. You were with him.
JACK JONES, AUTHOR, “LET ME TAKE YOU DOWN”: I’ve been with him quite a bit for the past six years.
KING: How many hours?
JONES: Over 200 hours of tape interviews and another probably 200 hours of off the record conversations and phone conversations.
KING: What feeling did you come away with?
JONES: You come away with the feeling that Mark is an unusual individual. He’s a sociopath, but he is much more intelligent than, I think, most of these people. He’s not your average woodchuck serial killer. He’s capable of great self-analysis, and I believe that the value of studying people like him is magnified when you have someone who has that sort of mind, that sort of introspective nature.
KING: Now you’ve looked at criminals a long time, right, written about them extensively.
JONES: Fifteen years in and out of Attica prison.
KING: You call him a sociopath. As I remember the definition of sociopath, they don’t know. They just — they don’t have a moral — they don’t have a conscience. Is that still true, do you think? Is he conning us?
JONES: I thinks Mark cons himself, still. I think that his mind is capable of almost infinite self-deception. I believe that unlike a lot of people, he tries very hard to empathize with other people. He tries to sense that other people have pain also, but it’s mostly intellectual sort of knowledge. He doesn’t really feel it. KING: He doesn’t really sorry about Lennon?
JONES: Once again, on an intellectual level, I think he does feel very sorry, but anyone who watches him in an interview or who speaks with him is amazed, I believe, at the way that he can return at will to the circumstances surrounding the killing, describe the actual details.
He’s unlike any other murderer I’ve ever known, including David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, with that ability to return to the moment of the crime as the — almost the defining moment his life.
KING: Almost like a broadcaster would cover it.
KING: How do you define that? What does that key in for you?
JONES: It keys in that here’s a very cold, methodical dispassionate person who carried out an incredibly premeditated act of violence.
KING: Do you buy the religious concept?
JONES: Mark David Chapman buys it. Mark believes fully in God as he perceives God to be.
KING: Let me pick that up in a minute. Jack Jones is the guest. The book is “Let Me Take You Down.” This is LARRY KING LIVE.
Don’t go away.
KING: Our guest is Jack Jones, the author of “Let Me Take You Down.” He did a lot of extensive interviews with the Son of Sam, David Berkowitz — they’re very different, right.
JACK JONES, AUTHOR “LET ME TAKE YOU DOWN”: Different in some ways, but actually both acts, or both men were carrying out acts of rage against the world.
Berkowitz and Chapman both didn’t come out shooting from the outset. They both built up to their acts of violence against other humans by…
KING: But Berkowitz killed indiscriminately and Chapman had a target.
JONES: Right; well, Berkowitz didn’t really kill indiscriminately, he was looking for people, specifically people who might have been having sex in cars and looking for women who looked like his mother. He was murdering his mother over and over and over.
KING: And who was Chapman killing? JONES: Some psychologists say he was killing his father but, I think, on a much more relevant level he was killing a part of all of us. He wanted to hurt the world.
Chapman told me at one point that he fantasized about getting his hands on nuclear devices and maybe blowing up a small city, injuring or killing thousands, if not millions, of people — and reasoned that, by killing someone that most of the people in the world identified with or had been touched by in one way or the other he could hurt us all, and he did.
KING: He says he’ll never get out, even though it’s 20 to life. Do you agree?
JONES: I don’t think he wants to get out. I think the more relevant question here is, would he accept parole if it were offered? And I don’t think, particularly if it were offered today or tomorrow, he would get out.
JONES: I asked David Berkowitz the same question and Berkowitz said, are you kidding me? If they ever put me out of here, of course I’ll start killing people again. I belong here.
KING: Do you think Chapman would?
JONES: Chapman is a little bit of a different situation; but I don’t think anybody could say whether he might, once again, start obsessing and compulsing about another human being if he were outside of prison and forced to make his own decisions again about the day-to- day things like going to work.
KING: He told me, at the end of the program, after the show, that he was a big fan of mine — I’m saying this for gratuitous things — and that he listened and watched all the time; and he told that to you, too, right?
KING: If he were out, would you ask me to watch out?
JONES: I don’t think that you would necessarily become a target for him. I don’t think that any individual, at this point, should be worried about him obsessing on them.
But there, again, with the obsessive, compulsive mind; and not knowing where or if, again, he might ever return again to the, sort of, dark side of the spiritual nature that he feels so close to. It would be a reason for concern.
KING: Do you like him?
JONES: I do like him.
KING: We’ll be back with our remaining moments with Jack Jones on this night devoted to an incredible saga in history.
Don’t go away.
KING: We’re back with Jack Jones.
How do you react to those who say that we shouldn’t interview the Mark David Chapmans, there shouldn’t be television shows or books. We focus attention on the wrong area.
JONES: Probably these are the same kind of people who say we shouldn’t be writing about or studying AIDS because it’s a very unpleasant, deadly topic.
We have an opportunity, particularly with a guy like Mark Chapman, who has agreed to open himself up for exploration and study, in hopes of preventing other Mark David Chapmans from coming along; and people who criticize journalists for exploring people like that, I think, miss the point.
KING: Do you think he believes he’s sincere?
JONES: I’m sure he believes he’s sincere.
KING: You’re not sure he’s sincere, but he is intellectually sincere?
JONES: Intellectually, he is very sincere and I — yes, I believe he’s sincere, too, I just believe that the danger here is that he doesn’t realize how deceptive his own mind is.
KING: He’s his own worst enemy, this is a classic story.
KING: You compared him to Hannibal Lecter?
JONES: Well, actually, he compared himself to Hannibal Lecter in a couple of instances. He talked of having almost hypnotized a fellow in a cell next to him in a previous institution where the guy was cursing him, yelling at him; and the fellow went into an epileptic seizure after Mark had talked to him in this slow voice about a cobra that was under his bunk and was crawling up the bunk.
KING: Do you he’d help us prevent future stalkers?
JONES: I think he can. I think that, someday we’ll be able to identify sociopaths, just like someday we’ll be able to identify what causes AIDS and cancer.
KING: Thanks Jack.
JONES: Thank you.
KING: The book is “Let Me Take You Down.” We’ve devoted the program to it tonight, we hope you found it interesting.