NEW YORK, N.Y. – Letters from John Lennon’s killer detailing his obsession with the novel “The Catcher in the Rye” to the police officer who arrested him went on sale Monday through a Los Angeles auction house.
The four missives from Mark David Chapman to Stephen Spiro are for sale through Moments In Time, which specializes in historical documents and rare autographs, at a fixed price of $75,000, auction house owner Gary Zimet said. Zimet is selling the letters on behalf of Spiro, who arrested Chapman on Dec. 8, 1980, shortly after he shot Lennon outside The Dakota, the ex-Beatle’s Manhattan apartment building.
The letters are typed and signed by Chapman. They were written over several months in 1983, after he had pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
In the first letter, from Jan. 15, 1983, Chapman says his reason for writing, besides wanting to be Spiro’s friend, is to ask for help in locating his copy of “The Catcher in The Rye,” which he was reading at the time of his arrest.
“Have you read ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ yet?” Chapman asks. “I would like you to read it and tell me what you think of it. As you remember, in the copy that was taken from me I had written ‘This is my statement.'”
Spiro said he received the first letter at the Manhattan precinct where he worked and wrote Chapman back because he was hoping to get evidence on a possible hit list of other victims and people acting with Chapman.
“I was trying to get information from him to admit why he did it and what his motives were,” said Spiro, who had the other letters sent to a post office box.
In one letter, Chapman said he’d let Spiro decide whether Lennon was a “phoney” or not, a reference to troubled “Catcher in the Rye” narrator Holden Caulfield, who refers to people as “phonies” in the book, written by J.D. Salinger. Spiro said he re-read the novel on Chapman’s request.
“I wanted to try to relate to him in the letters,” he said.
The letters stopped abruptly, and Spiro said he believes someone told Chapman not to write to the police department anymore. An injury ended Spiro’s job as a New York police officer in 1983, but he said he kept the letters in a file for more than 30 years. He decided to sell them in part to pay off hefty medical bills from cancer and other illnesses and because he thought they should be in the public domain.
“I wanted to publicize them to the world because they’re part of history,” he said.
Spiro, 66, had no contact with Chapman after the last letter.
Chapman, 57, was denied parole in August for the seventh time. During the hearing, he again expressed remorse for Lennon’s killing and spoke of his Christian faith.
Lennon’s widow, singer and artist Yoko Ono, still lives in the Dakota apartment she shared with Lennon, who was 40 when he died. She was celebrating her 80th birthday with a concert in Berlin and couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
Associated Press writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report from Los Angeles.