John Lennon Killer Also Considered Shooting Johnny Carson, Elizabeth Taylor

Told parole board about list of alternate victims, Lennon plot details.

September 16, 2010, 7:10 PM

Sept. 16, 2010 — -- The man who killed John Lennon in 1980 considered killing Johnny Carson or Elizabeth Taylor instead, but settled upon Lennon because he seemed to be the most accessible target on his list.

Mark David Chapman, 55, told a parole board Sept. 7 that there were other names on his list of potential targets, but he can't recall who they were, according to a transcript of the parole hearing, after which Chapman's parole was denied for a sixth time.

"I was going through that in my mind the other day; I knew you would ask that," he said via videoconference from Attica prison in New York. "Johnny Carson was one of them. Elizabeth Taylor. I lose memory of perhaps the other two.

"If it wasn't Lennon, it could have been someone else," he said.

Chapman, who first became eligible for parole in 2000, is serving a sentence of 20 years to life after shooting Lennon four times outside the Dakota apartment building in New York on Dec. 8, 1980. He next will be eligible for a hearing in August 2012.

Chapman has mentioned a list of potential targets in the past. But when he named names at his 2000 hearing, they were blacked out in the publicly released version of the transcript.

In past interviews, however, Chapman spoke of considering Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as a target, the Associated Press reported. And in a 1987 interview in People magazine, he revealed other potential targets such as Lennon's former Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney, actor George C. Scott, then-Hawaii Gov. George Ariyoshi and then-President Ronald Reagan, the AP reported.

Chapman told the parole board this month that Lennon, Carson, Taylor and the others made the list because "they are famous; that was it," and he thought that by killing them he would achieve "instant noteriety, fame."

"It wasn't about them, necessarily," Chapman said. "It was just about me; it was all about me at that time.

"I felt that by killing John Lennon I would become somebody," he said, "and instead of that I became a murderer and murderers are not somebodies.

"I made a horrible decision to end another human being's life for reasons of selfishness, and that was my decision at that time," he said.

He suggested he may have turned homicidal after feeling suicidal.

Sections of the transcript relevant to his psychological condition and diagnoses are partially blacked out, but he told the parole board, "Instead of taking my life I took somebody else's, which was unfortunate."

Mark David Chapman: Lennon 'Seemed More Accessible' Than Other Celebrity Options

Chapman, 25 at the time of the killing, said Lennon became his first choice because he thought he could get at him.

"He seemed more accessible to me," he said at the parole hearing. "I found out what building he was at and went to the building, that type of thing. It wasn't quite as cloistered as some of the other people might have been and I chose him, the top of the list."

Chapman, who had been drinking regularly, depressed and working as an overnight security guard in Hawaii, said he brought an unloaded gun on a flight to New York intending to kill Lennon in October or November 1980, but found he could not buy bullets there.

He flew down to Atlanta and obtained bullets from a police officer he knew on the pretense that he'd need them for protection on his trip to New York, Chapman said.

"They were power-packed," Chapman said. "They were hollow points. They were special, powerful .38-caliber bullets. He said, 'This is what you need.'"

Back in New York, Chapman said he saw a movie that got him to waver in his thinking that he should kill Lennon.

"I came out of the movie theater and I called my wife [in Hawaii] and, for the first time, I told her ... what I was going to do and I was crying," he said. "And I said, 'I thought about life and thought about my grandmother.' And I told her, I said, 'Your love has saved me. I'm coming home.' And she said, 'Just come home. Please, come home.' So at that point, I had abandoned all the plans and was going to throw the gun in the river and that type of thing and come back and everything was going to be OK.

"Of course, that didn't happen," he added.

Though he flew back to Hawaii, Chapman soon returned to New York.

"A couple weeks later, it started to build in me again: that emptiness, that desire to become somebody, and I couldn't stop it," he said. "I lied to my wife and told her I'm going back there again and gonna get it together and write a book, write books or something, just to try to find myself, and she believed me wholeheartedly, as a good wife. And I left on Dec. 6. And on Dec. 8 I committed the murder."

Mark David Chapman Hopes to Get Job Upon Prison Release: 'I Would Do Anything'

Chapman said he has been working general jobs as a porter and law library clerk in prison. He hopes to live with his wife of 31 years, who currently lives in Hawaii, and find work in New York state whenever he gets released.

"I would find a job," he said. "I would do anything, anything practical. This last fellow had found me a job, found a farmer that was willing to give me a job on the farm. I said, 'Sure, thank you.' So I would do anything."

He told the parole board his deepening Christianity has made him a better person than he was when he committed the killing. But he understands why members of the public would want to keep him locked up.

"Prior to my incarceration and being who I was at the time before this happened, before the confusion ... to be honest with you, I would probably say, 'Leave him in there,'" Chapman said. "But now that I have done time in prison and have seen that people that come to prison are still people, my thinking has changed along those lines.

"But the average person on the street would probably say, 'Leave him in,' and I understand that," he said. "I can understand the feelings."