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30 years later, it's still hard to fathom Lennon's killing

John Lennon's fans celebrated his life Wednesday by visiting Strawberry Fields, the Central Park garden dedicated in his honor, while a newly released interview he gave shortly before his death showed he was optimistic about his future. (Dec. 8)

Catharell lingered outside the Cavern. "I couldn't tell how long I sat there. Hours and hours. I sat there till it was dark," she says in her lyrical Liverpool accent. "It must have been quite a long time because the candles were lighting up the street. It was just . . . it was just awful."

'He believed in peace'

In Southern California, Kristy Mundt stayed home from work the day after Lennon's murder. "It brought back all the awful memories of losing John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King," she says. "The Beatles had come just after JFK's assassination, right at the right time, to get young people out of that rut and that depression. And now somebody had killed John."

In 1995, not long after joining the Come Together Beatles Fan Club in San Diego, Mundt heard that Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, who had been sentenced to 20 years to life, might, in five more years, be getting out of prison.

So Mundt began circulating petitions, gathering signatures of fans who also didn't want to see Chapman out of jail - ever. "I realized that, if nobody did anything, he might just slip through the cracks and be out and free to do whatever he wanted to do, and he should not be allowed to do that," she says.

There was another reason. "It was my opinion that, if he got out, somebody was going to kill him," she says. "And I didn't believe that was something that John would want. He didn't believe in an eye for an eye, he believed in peace."

Mundt gathered 700 signatures the weekend of the Beatle Fair and by October 2000, after circulating the petition online and to fan clubs around the world, had 35,000 signatures. So the grocery clerk from San Diego flew to Attica State Prison in Upstate New York - on her own dime - to deliver the signatures and protest Chapman's possible release outside the prison gates. (He is still in prison.)

"John's death was such a waste," Mundt says. "It was one of the stupidest things ever done. I'm 58 now - I look at what I've accomplished in the last 18 years, since I was 40," says the breast cancer survivor. "To have that time taken away, in your own life . . . it's just a waste."

Hurwitz is a freelance writer.

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