What becomes of history's most notorious villains? While we often hear the gory details about assassination plots, we rarely hear what happened afterward to the assassins of Abraham Lincoln, Franz Ferdinand, John F. Kennedy, and Mahatma Gandhi. What were their lives like after achieving infamy? Did they repent for their sins? Or did they gloat about their misdeeds?
It's a mixed bag. Some died during their attempt, or were smoked out for what they did (quite literally, in the case of Lincoln's assassin). Others were regarded as heroes, or served time and returned to society.
You might be surprised by what happened to some of the most famous assassins around the world.
The Scene: Washington, DC, April 14, 1865
The Assassin: John Wilkes Booth, a well-known stage actor
What Went Down: While President Abraham Lincoln watched a play at Ford's Theater, Booth fired at him point-blank in the back of the head.
The Aftermath: After breaking his leg while trying to escape, Booth fled on horseback with his accomplice, David Herold. The two stopped at Dr. Samuel Mudd's home to splint Booth's broken leg just as federal troops began to track them down.
After getting help from other Confederate sympathizers, the two managed to hide for 12 days until they were hunted down on a tobacco farm. Herold surrendered and came out of the barn, but Booth refused, so Union troops set the barn on fire. When Booth finally ran out of the burning building, Union soldier Boston Corbett fired at his neck, and Booth expired two hours later.
The Scene: New Delhi, India, January 30, 1948
The Assassin: Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist
What Went Down: On the way to a prayer meeting, Mahatma Gandhi was walking when Godse emerged from the crowd and fired at Gandhi three times in the stomach and chest.
The Aftermath: Crowd members held Godse and detained him at the scene. Godse said he targeted Gandhi because of Gandhi's tolerance toward Muslims. He was given the death sentence, but Gandhi's sons argued on Godse's behalf, saying their father did not believe in such punishment. The court would not listen to their pleas, and Godse was hanged on November 15, 1949.
The Scene: Manhattan, NY, December 8, 1980
The Assassin: Mark David Chapman, an unemployed security guard from Hawaii
What Went Down: Chapman fired at musician and former Beatle John Lennon, who was with his wife, Yoko Ono, four times at close range outside Lennon's Upper West Side apartment.
The Aftermath: After shooting Lennon, Chapman remained on the scene and read The Catcher in the Rye. A born-again Christian, he pleaded guilty, stating he didn't slay Lennon because he was a fanatic, but because of Lennon's un-Christian lifestyle. He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
In September 2020, Chapman was denied parole for the 11th time. He recently stated that he really targeted Lennon because he was jealous of his life.
The Scene: Washington, DC, July 2, 1881
The Assassin: Charles Guiteau, a mentally ill lawyer and fanatic supporter of the Republican Party
What Went Down: When newly inaugurated President James Garfield boarded a train, Guiteau fired at Garfield's back twice. Garfield lived for 79 (painful) days before eventually passing on September 19 in Elberon, NJ, likely due to an infection from unsterilized instruments and unwashed hands.
The Aftermath: Guiteau anticipated the death penalty and was ready to live in infamy. He even chose his pistol based on what he thought would look the best in an exhibit on the president’s slaying.
Guiteau's trial lived up to his hope. It grabbed the nation's attention and was one of the first defenses to argue whether someone who cannot decipher right from wrong can be found guilty. Ultimately, Guiteau was found guilty and hanged on June 30, 1882.
Scientists wanted to see if Guiteau's brain showed any signs of sociopathy. After removing his brain, they found that, surprisingly, his brain did show signs of advanced syphilis. At the time, they thought this could cause insanity. (Today it's believed Guiteau suffered from schizophrenia.) The remains of Guiteau's brain are held at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.