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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Mark David Chapman, imprisoned for murdering former Beatle John Lennon in New York nearly 28 years ago, has been denied parole for a fifth time, state authorities said on Tuesday.

The New York State Division of Parole said in a statement that the 53-year-old's request for parole was denied "due to concern for the public safety and welfare."

Chapman is serving a sentence of 20 years to life for shooting and killing Lennon as he and his wife, Yoko Ono, arrived at their apartment building on December 8, 1980.

Ono was not immediately available for comment on Chapman's parole denial.

The board noted that Chapman's disciplinary record had been clean since October 1994, but that during his parole interview, he stated that he planned and executed "the premeditated slaying of John Lennon with an essentially clear mind."

"Your conduct thus precipitated a horrendously tragic event which has impacted many individuals," the board said. "Your discretionary release at this time would thus not be compatible with the welfare of society at large, and would tend to deprecate the seriousness of the instant offense, and undermine respect for the law."

Heather Groll, spokeswoman for the New York State Division of Parole, said the board received a petition with about 1,100 signatures and about 50 letters opposing Chapman's release and three letters supporting his release.

Chapman, who is behind bars at Attica prison near Rochester, New York, was also denied parole in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. He may apply for parole again in 2010.
Erik Kriss, spokesman for the New York State Department of Correctional Services, told Reuters that Chapman was being held in a special isolated housing unit away from the general prison population because of fears for his safety.

Chapman has a certificate in legal research and helps other inmates with research in a small law library separate from the main prison library, Kriss said. He also works as a porter and cleans some administrative areas.

Kriss said Chapman has also been part of the prison's "family reunion" program, which has allowed him conjugal visits with his wife for the past 16 years.

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