Even in the unsettling world of rock star deaths, few were as shocking as the murder of Beatle John Lennon, shot outside his Manhattan apartment in 1980 by a fan who had asked for the singer’s autograph hours earlier.
Thanks to both the worldwide success of the Beatles and Lennon’s strident political activism (which almost got him extradited from his adopted country in the early ’70s), many presumed that his death was politically motivated, coming so soon after the release of his first album since 1975. But killer Mark David Chapman was driven only by psychological delusions and a hunger for fame. Despite protests from his lawyer, Chapman refused to plead insanity, and was found guilty of second-degree murder.
Lennon’s tragically shortened life has since been the subject of countless documentaries and books, and Chapman eventually got his own biopic, the flop Chapter 27, starring Jared Leto. Chapman, who was sentenced to 20 years to life, has been denied parole three times despite an “exemplary disciplinary record.” Because of the high profile of his crime, it’s unlikely he’ll ever be released from prison.