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Accused Lennon killer likens self to Holden Caulfield

NEW YORK -- Mark David Chapman says reading the novel, 'The Catcher in the Rye,' will 'help many to understand' why he allegedly killed John Lennon.

In a handwritten statement delivered to the New York Times last week, Chapman, 25, said that 'this extraordinary book holds many answers.'

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The amateur guitarist and former security guard signed the letter 'Mark David Chapman -- the Catcher in the Rye.'

The novel, written by J.D. Salinger and published in 1951, deals with the concepts of innocence and experience.

The hero, Holden Caulfield, is an alienated 16-year-old who refuses to leave the world of innocence because he is disgusted with the world of experience.

As a result, he fantasizes himself as 'The Catcher in the Rye,' a person who stands in a field of rye and prevents sheep from falling off a cliff -- and into the world of experience.

Lennon was shot to death last Dec. 8 outside his luxury apartment building, the Dakota, on Manhattan's West Side.

After the killing, police said, Chapman put the gun down, opened a copy of 'The Catcher in the Rye' and was reading it calmly when he was arrested.

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His statement, printed in ballpoint capital letters on yellow legal paper, reads:

'It is my sincere belief that presenting this written statement will not only stimulate reading of J.D. Salinger's 'The Catcher in the Rye' but will also help many to understand what has happened.

'If you were able to view the actual copy of 'The Catcher in the Rye' that was taken from me on the night of Dec. 8, you would find in it the handwritten words 'This is my statement.'

'Unfortunately I was unable to continue this stance and have since spoken openly with the police, doctors and others involved in this case. I now fully realize that this should not have been done for it removed the emphasis that I wanted to place on my book.

'My wish is for all of you to someday read 'The Catcher in the Rye.' All of my efforts will now be devoted toward this goal, for this extraordinary book holds many answers. My true hope is that in wanting to find these answers you will read 'The Catcher in the Rye.' Thank you.'

Chapman, who reportedly tried to commit suicide twice before the shooting, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity at his arraignment last month and is being held at the Rikers Island prison.

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He spends his time talking with his court-appointed lawyer, Jonathan Marks, three psychiatrists retained by the defense and another psychiatrist working for the prosecution.

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