The death of John Lennon on December 8, 1980 is one of those moments that made history, like the shooting of John F. Kennedy, the death of Princess Diana, and the fall of the Twin Towers; but even more incredible is what happened to the man who shot him.
Mark David Chapman was born in 1955 in Fort Worth Texas and had a happy childhood until he discovered the hippie drug culture at 14 and became a heavy user.
"I loved drugs," he recalls, "All I did was do drugs and hang out with my friends. It was great for a while. But no matter what I did, or what I tried, I was never really happy."
Two years later, however, he had a life-changing experience at his grandparents' house. He had cried out to God in his loneliness "God, if you are really there, will you help me?" and Jesus appeared to him.
"I could feel Jesus in the room with me, just like you would any other person. He was really there – it was not just my imagination," Mark asserts.
"All those feelings of loneliness and hurt and emptiness came off of me and I knew He would always be with me the rest of my life, no matter what happened."
Mark says he felt "lighter" and filled with a happiness he had not known before. "I didn't need drugs anymore! I had finally found what I was looking for."
Mark never went back to drugs but, sadly, he started to think about Jesus less and less. "I went back to my old self and soon grew cold toward Him. He never left me though, and whenever I would call out to Him, He would help me."
Mark became plagued by emptiness and depression.
"I was miserable. I began to withdraw from everything and started living in my own world ... and finding nothing there."
At 22 he tried to take his life by gassing himself in his car, but the attempt failed.
A year later he met his wife, Gloria, and led her into a relationship with God.
"He explained to me the death of Jesus, what that really meant. That He, as God's Son, was sent from Heaven to die for us in our place, for all the wrong we had done, and that all we had to do was simply call out to Him and believe in Him and ask for His forgiveness," she recounts.
Mark then had "a good job, an incredible place to live, and a beautiful wife to share it with", but he says he didn't realize at the time how deeply in need of help he still was.
The depression returned even worse than before. He felt like he was "running into darkness" and felt anxious and troubled. Mark started drinking to get away from his feelings.
"It didn't work. I became a nightmare of alternating rage and insanity," he miserably recalls.
It was at this time, when he was at his lowest, Mark came upon a photograph of John Lennon on an LP record cover and the horrible thought of killing him came into his mind.
He thought it would be a solution to his depression and darkness. "I would gain instant fame. I would finally be a 'somebody'."
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Now serving 20 years to life at Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, near Buffalo, N.Y. Mark says he has no real excuse for what he did.
"I wasn't on drugs; I wasn't the obsessed fan some people felt I was... I was just so selfish, so lost inside myself, so desperate for a way out."
He remembers that in the weeks before the murder "God spoke deeply to my heart and conscience about my plan to kill John Lennon. But I didn't listen.
"If I had wanted, I could have asked Jesus to help me. He was right there. But I chose not to."
Mark says that today he is a changed man, not because he is perfect but because he has stopped running from God. He wants to warn others. "I was a fool and I don't want you to make the same mistake of using selfish decisions to solve your problems. Believe me, there is another way."
Mark and Gloria are still married and have a Christian ministry distributing brochures that detail Mark's story and challenge others to call out to God for help.?