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Tuesday, October 3, 2000

Parole denied
to Lennon killer
Mark Chapman

Despite a good record in
prison, Chapman wanted
to 'maintain notoriety,' the
parole board said

By Carolyn Thompson
Associated Press

ATTICA, N.Y. -- State parole officials rejected a bid for freedom today for ex-Beatle John Lennon's killer, saying Mark David Chapman hadn't lost his need for publicity, a drive that fueled his "most vicious and violent act."

It was Chapman's first attempt for parole stemming from the December 1980 shooting death. Chapman won't be eligible for parole for two more years.

Chapman was interviewed for 50 minutes this morning at a closed hearing at the maximum-security Attica state prison by three parole board members, said Tom Grant, a spokesman for the state Division of Parole.

About four hours later, Chapman was given the board's one-page determination beginning: "Parole is denied."

The board called Chapman's killing of Lennon "calculated and unprovoked." In addition to being one of the most famous musicians in the world, Lennon was also a "husband and a father of two young children," the board said.

"Your most vicious and violent act was apparently fueled by your need to be acknowledged," the board said. "During your parole hearing, this panel noted your continued interest in maintaining your notoriety."

In a recent interview, Chapman said he believed that Lennon would have approved of his release.

But the board concluded that releasing Chapman at this time would "deprecate the seriousness of the crime and serve to undermine respect for the law."

The parole board did note that Chapman has an "exemplary disciplinary record" while in prison. But it added that because he has served his time in special protective housing, "you have been unable to avail yourself of anti-violence and/or anti-aggression programming."

Chapman, 45, is serving 20 years to life in Attica. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in June 1981 for fatally shooting Lennon as the rock star and his wife, Yoko Ono, were entering their Manhattan apartment following a recording session.

Chapman arrived in Hawaii in 1977 and stayed until October 1980, working at Castle Medical Center and a Waikiki condominium. He married during that time.

Immediately after today's decision, Ono spokesman Eliot Mintz released to The Associated Press a letter Ono wrote to the parole board about Chapman's hearing. In it, Ono refers to Chapman's name only once, and on subsequent references simple calls him "the subject."

Ono described the pain of losing Lennon and how Chapman's release from prison would unravel her life.

"I am afraid it will bring back the nightmare, the chaos and confusion once again. Myself and John's two sons, would not feel safe for the rest of our lives," she wrote.

She also said releasing Chapman might spark violence against him by angry Lennon fans.

"They would feel that it is unfair that the 'subject' is rewarded with a normal life while John lost his," she wrote. "Violence begets violence. If it is at all possible, I would like us to not create a situation which may bring further madness and tragedy to the world."

State Sen. Michael F. Nozzolio, chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, had asked parole authorities to deny Chapman's bid.

"John Lennon represented a vision of hope, peace and love," Nozzolio wrote to Parole Board Chairman Brion Travis.

"Tragically, his positive message and his life were fatally ended by Mark David Chapman," Nozzolio wrote. "It is the responsibility of the New York State Parole Board to ensure that public safety is protected from the release of dangerous criminals like Mark David Chapman."

Parole board hearings with inmates are closed to the public. The Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Law request to get the board's determination. A transcript of today's interview with Chapman by the board will be available late in the week.

In Central Park, near where Lennon was slain, some fans who gathered today at the Strawberry Fields garden dedicated to Lennon said they did not want Chapman to be granted parole.

"I don't think they should ever let the guy out," said Rod Hanson. "It was a tragic loss to everybody, not just Beatles fans."

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