It’s Time

Going Public About a Very Personal Tragedy

“He’s just doing this for fame and fortune,” someone recently said about me after learning I’d been writing a book for the past year. But that just isn’t true. I’m speaking and writing now because I have something important to share. The truth. And what I’ve come to learn about my late wife, about depression, PTSD and mental health — including my own. 

“Let me be clear. ABC News doesn’t pay for interviews and any profits from the book will be donated to a charitable cause we believed in.”

In the hours and days that followed the worst day I never could have imagined, understandably distraught, former colleagues, people I considered my friends, turned their backs on me. “Stop contacting University of Delaware employees or we’ll file a restraining order” the campus police threatened me. I’d been sending text messages to a handful of friends as the news started to break locally and soon nationally.

“Don’t believe what the news is saying,” I told them. “She [Meredith] deserves better than this.” In a 46-second press conference, less than 24 hours after the killings, the police presented to the media their open and shut case, full of inaccuracies, hypotheticals and best guesses. My wife, they contended, discovered that I was having a torrid affair and then took a train from Delaware to Meredith’s home, broke in, waited and then shot and killed her — a crime of passion. Not only is that not accurate, it just isn’t that simple.

For days, weeks even, I and members of my family were contacted by several media outlets, all wanting an interview. I wanted to tell my story. I wanted to undo the damage of “the news” and malicious comments about Jennair, Meredith and myself from readers from around the world. But I just couldn’t. Not yet. 

After a month or so, it finally stopped. It was all over, it seemed. A welcome reprieve. But then eight months later, I received an email from a cable news show, planning to produce a documentary about my wife. I could be involved or not, they told me. Either way, they were still going to do it. Hesitantly I agreed. I wasn’t about to let them concoct yet another story based on the existing media accounts and police reports. I needed to share my truth.

Over the next few weeks, I spoke at length with the show’s producer. And I liked her. Trusted her. She assured me that they were going to handle this story with grace and dignity, shining a light on mental health and suicide, especially for women. The show, I later learned was about women who had committed violent crimes. After watching a couple of previous episodes, it just didn’t sit well with me. However, I felt I had little choice but to stay involved.

As the date for the interview drew closer, I felt less and less comfortable, partly because I had no prior experience of speaking publicly on television. So I reached out for help. I sent an email to Wendy Saltzman, a media consultant and a former investigative reporter for the ABC news affiliate in Philadelphia. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked. 

“I don’t know that I have a choice,” I told her. “If I don’t tell my story now, I don’t think it will ever stop. It’s time.”

“Let me make a call,” she told me. Two weeks later, Wendy and I were sitting at lunch across the table from two producers from ABC 20/20. “The story got so twisted,” I told them. “I want to straighten it out. I want to come clean. Admit my faults.” But most importantly I wanted to share what I had learned over the past year. I wanted the public to understand the depths of my wife’s despair and her mental condition in her final hours. I wanted everyone to know our history, to understand the depths of my feelings and my relationship with Meredith Sullivan (formerly Chapman) and how it came to be. No one could have predicted the tragedy that ultimately happened. No one saw it coming. Not me. Not Jennair’s family, our family therapist, her psychologist nor her clinical psychiatrist.

“My wife was sick,” I told the ABC Producers. “People need to understand that. This could happen to anyone. I want your viewers and readers of the book I wrote to learn from the experience of my tragedy.”

When we left lunch that day, I felt confident that ABC was the right choice. I felt that they would tell the story truthfully, with integrity and without salacious undertones. I wasn’t asking for any favorable treatment, nor did I intend to withhold my own past transgressions. And let me be very clear. ABC doesn’t pay for interviews, and any profits from the book will be donated to a charitable caused we had always believed in.

I know that there will be many on both sides that will berate me and question, if not damn my motives. And I sincerely apologize if I offend or upset anyone. But the story, as it was told in the media months ago isn’t right. It doesn’t begin to explain the complexity of what unfolded. It doesn’t peel back the layers and ask how? Why? What can we learn?

It’s time.

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36 thoughts on “It’s Time”

  1. Mark, I just finished reading your book. Wow. It was amazing. I am familiar with your story because I saw your 20/20 special. I actually was born, raised and currently live in Delaware County, PA, but I knew nothing of this. I don’t watch the news though. I pray that you have forgiven yourself. Although what you did was horrible, you definitely didn’t deserve the outcome. Nobody did. My heart breaks for Jennair and Meredith. Two lives that were too young to die. I hope and pray that you have found peace and you live an amazing life filled with love and happiness.

  2. I saw 20/20, which got me interested in the book. I think there is much in this book that everyone can relate to on some level. Thanks for writing it and sharing your story. So tragic, but Deeply personal. Thanks for continually sharing your story.

  3. “All those wasted tears all those wasted years” ~ what I think when I look back on too many years in an abusive marriage. I knew he had mental problems I got him to see a therapist when I told him I was leaving if he didn’t. After a few sessions he stopped going. They’ll go through the motions but you can’t really help them if they don’t want it. When I finally left no one died I just dealt with post traumatic stress syndrome for 6-7 years ~ more wasted years. But I had to figure out why it all happened and how I let it happen. I understand why you wrote your book. I feel sad for you and what you must be going through. Things will get better we’ll never get over it but we’ll get through it because we have to. We don’t need more wasted years.
    ~vm~

  4. My question is after reading this book…how do you help someone you love see that they are in an abusive relationship? It’s not physical but mental and emotional.
    I’m glad you told your story…writing is cathartic and you may have helped someone else. I have written a couple letters to my loved one and it was a good way to help myself by putting it on paper.
    I hope you can find love in the future. As you stated tomorrow is there and don’t take it for granted.

  5. I purchased and read your book today. A very compelling read — so tragic and sad, but offers helpful insight. I think many, including myself, have experienced similar situations, although fortunately not to the extreme you have experienced. I appreciate your candidness and hope you find restoration, healing and peace.

  6. I’ve re-read the book and it’s so much more than just a breakdown of marriage, etc. It’s also about feeling like there’s nothing else left for you after a certain point in life, and something inside them breaks. Even the ‘strongest’ person can fall victim to a mental breakdown. This is just an extreme example, but it’s more common than admitted. Thank you for your openness.

  7. Mark, congratulations on your well written book. You do an excellent job explaining the background leading up to you affair with Meredith. It truly was complex.

    But you do lose credibility with me because you do not address Meredith’s conduct as a person in a management position. In the book you praise Meredith’s professionalism and her career accomplishments at such a young age. Her conduct with you as her direct report was incredibly unprofessional and very unethical. It put her boss, her coworkers and the University in an embarrassing position. By extending an offer in good faith to move you and Jennair to Delaware and then take advantage of Jennair not moving immediately was predatory.

    You detail how Jennair would manipulate you, I think you should at least acknowledge that Meredith took advantage of her position to win your love and get you to leave Jennair.

    Good luck moving forward and feel good that your book is helping others.

    1. Heather, thank you for your comment. I did not specifically provide an opinion on Meredith’s professional conduct in the book, because I believe I was every bit as responsible as she was, and had every opportunity to stop the relationship. I certainly never felt forced or coerced. I also believe it was important to let the reader come to their own conclusions, as you have. I do hope that you are right that this book is helping others.

      1. Mark, thank you for your response. I completely understand how you could feel this way about Meredith’s conduct towards you. Even though you do not feel victimized, you were a victim. Because you are twenty years older than Meredith with years of professional experience it clouds the situation. Truth is Meredith broke almost every professional and ethical rule there is in managing employees. Obviously Meredith did this out of a deep love for you and that it appears her husband wanted to be with someone else. She was hurting and you dropped into her life. But after having sex with you how could she effectively manage you in the best interest of UD? Work loads, assignments, disciplinary Issues are now viewed through your relationship not in a professional manner. Ethically, she had an employee express his unhappiness in his personal life and instead of offering help or advice she exploited the situation. Her lack of empathy for an employee’s spouse is also troubling. Often, companies/institutions express that they care about their employees and their families. Obviously, that did not happen with Meredith to Jennair. You use your tragic story in such a good way help others on a personal level, I think your story can also help many on a professional level. Your story reminds me of our former Mayor of Nashville. Mayor Barry had a long term affair with her police body guard. They used her position to travel the world together on taxpayers expense. After being caught she claimed it was just two consenting adults not even acknowledging her lover risking his marriage, a twenty year career and an extensive pension to be with her. The personal side hurts deep but the professional side of these affairs can be very damaging to coworkers and institutions. Keep sending your message, people are listening

        1. I think that no matter your age, gender, job, position of authority, affairs happen. I have been on both sides and both times have not ended with positive consequences. The second ended with circumstances similar to ‘you ruined my life and will live to regret it’, but those are the chances you take when you tread into places you may not belong amongst people ‘you may have really never really known after all’. I would not have wanted to be Jennair in this situation, and Mark, I truly feel you obviously never, ever intended to cause pain to Jennair to such an extent. The fact is that people grow and change and sometimes they grow in the same direction, sometimes they don’t. I hope for you, Mark, that as each day passes you let go of one more grain of guilt. It’s much more complicated than any of the criticism you are receiving. Keep the faith, and take it one breath at a time. Treat yourself with the loving kindness that you deserve.

  8. My heart goes out to you mark ! I will continue to pray for you ,Jennair and Meredith and,I hope that you find love and happiness !!!

  9. Mark,

    Well said, and taking responsibility for your role.. I have read your book twice. Lots of lessons to learn, and insight to gain on life in general. Thanks again for writing it and sharing your in-depth analysis of self-examination.

    I trust that you are moving your life in a positive direction. Good luck and take care

  10. I have just finished this book, I knew the story from other news shows. I ache for everyone involved in this tragedy. I find myself aching for all 3 of you equally, but while reading this, even though I knew the jist of the story, I could never get Jennair out of my mind. I wish she would have been able to know that her life mattered. I pray you find peace. Thank you for sharing something so deeply personal. GOD bless you.

  11. Anytime one person in a relationship betrays then other, there will be consequences.

    I have heard and seen much in my 72 years and the tragic loss of lives and the
    hurt to those who knew and loved these women is almost unspeakable.

    I hope you one-day find peace.

  12. Mark, I salute you for laying all on the line with your tragic story. Two aspects of this tragedy really stuck with me after reading your book.

    1) How could an incredibly sweet, sensitive and highly intelligent woman who all friends said was a beautiful person bed and steal another woman’s husband of 25 years? I bet her family and friends never thought she was capable of such a heartless act.

    2) And for a grown woman who was an anti violence animal lover, gun control advocate and peace lover to not only gun down a person in cold blood, but methodically plan it and then to kill herself.

    Meredith Chapman must have had some done deep inner pain that she was trying to relieve for her to do this to Mrs. Gerardot. I saw a description of Meredith Chapman as a beacon of light so pursuing a man who was married for 25 years was definitely out of character. Her father was listed as estranged in her obituary, maybe she was trying to heal the pain of not having her father in her life.

    By all accounts heart break and hopelessness pushed Mrs. Gerardot to murder/suicide, something no one who knew her would think she would ever do. Feeling like there is no place where you to fit in or belong Is debilitating.

    Mark, please continue to try and help both families. Good luck

    1. Each person in this tragedy acted on their own accord. Ms. Sullivan had her ‘reasons’ that are multi-layered and came from her 33 years on Earth, Jennair from her complicated life, and Mark the same. Trying to psychoanalyze Meredith’s ‘daddy issues’ is absolutely ridiculous and an insult to her. She still was a sweet and loving person. Jennair was a sweet and loving person with a mental illness that caused her to behave in the manner that she did because she was triggered by an overburden of stress. Of course, full disclosure, I am not a mental health professional, but I believe it is wrong to say Meredith is no longer sweet and highly intelligent because she became involved with a married man. A married man who was incredibly intelligent and career-driven and spent years committed to making his marriage stay together became involved with a married woman. The woman who was cheated on who already, due to early childhood trauma and extenuating life experiences, building stress as she became obsessed with the situation–‘what does SHE have that I don’t?’, who absolutely was anti-gun, went off the rails bit-by-bit to a drastic, tragic conclusion because she saw no other rational ending. It’s too easy to judge any one of these 3. Mark will forever blame himself, but this would not help. It will not bring back either of these 2 beautiful women. All 3 of these people were victims to a tragic story.

      1. Please do not misinterpret my post.
        There is zero judgement. Only speculation on why these “good people “ would commit these horrible acts. Noting more. I do take issue with some posting “excuses” for Mark, Jennair and Meredith. That defeats the entire premise of Mark’s book. State the truth and take responsibility for one’s action. Bravo Mark!

        I suffer everyday from what has been described by some commenters as “Daddy Issues”. Maybe you should stop and consider what it is like to have a Father who sees no value in you. Believe me it does not leave you when enter adulthood. I am in my forties and it is with me everyday. My lifetime obsession with overachievement kinda reminds me of someone this book is about.

        1. Sydney, I am very familiar with the tragedy of growing up in a family where one is led to believe they have no value. Forgive my use of terminology that offends, I was just ‘hearing’ what I thought you meant. My father was exceptionally abusive and it’s true that I fight to not be the person that sick man deemed I should become.
          I think that’s why people have such strong reactions to Mark’s book no matter which way their opinion flows; while it seems on the outside to be something that could ‘never happen to someone you know’, none of us actually DO know unless caught up in the situation.
          Affairs happen, people taunt the spouse, etc. Some people who you might never believe capable of certain acts be it spying, stealing, stalking, etc, surprise you when you push their buttons the wrong way too hard for too long.
          Believe me, I too know the downfalls of becoming a person in the adulterous marriage/affair.
          I am sorry for your pain and I hope with open and honest conversations that more people will become more aware, understanding and less judgmental. There are way too many tragedies-not all of them end in actual murder, but the people involved have their lives destroyed by the ex’s, etc too. I still don’t blame any of the 3 people in this story. Let’s support each other in healing, this is what will make our world a better place.

  13. I feel very sad for your deceased wife more than anyone. To discard her and discount her that way after 24 years of marriage is truly heinous. While you are putting her mental health issues on display for the world to see, perhaps have your own mental health examined. After watching the 20/20 episode, I saw a man who seemed void of appropriate emotions even before the tragedy. I also saw narcissistic tendencies which all goes together. My heart breaks for your wife and not the piece of #$$ you destroyed your marriage and wife’s life over. It is so shallow and calloused that you would hold the 35 year old in higher regard than the woman who dedicated her life to you literally. To say you cannot forgive your wife for taking your mistress’ life?? You and your mistress destroyed your wife’s life and that is all there is to it. You said you had more in common with Meredith and I could see what traits you might be talking about: selfishness, exaggerated ego, and no regard for the sanctity of marriage whatsoever. She was your boss with a calculated mission to win you. She was not a respectable person. It is unfathomable to me how you could intentionally have your wife move to a new place knowing already that you were finished with her. You can say you loved your wife as much as you want but your lamenting for the loss of Meredith speak the opposite. I hope your wife’s family does not allow you to desecrate her memory by acting like she was the only one with the problem. She had a lot of good traits you obviously don’t and you and your mistress are the ones who ultimately broke her. RIP.

    1. She was the only one with the real problem. Mark did something millions of people do yet few people actually resort to killing someone over it. Should he have had an affair? Of course not. But even if he hadn’t, had divorced her as compassionately as possible, she still would have found some way to hurt him. There is no excuse to take someone’s life if they physically do not pose a threat to you. And if you do, you’re not a good person. Period. Funny how you talk about the sanctity of marriage but you completely disregard mentioning the sanctity of life.

  14. I’d like to stay neutral as far as not siding with anyone on this because I feel everyone did something very wrong. I do wonder if constantly lying to Jennair about the affair and gaslighting her about your marriage (which according to one of Jennair’s letters the marriage meant the world to her) took a vulnerable person who may have been suffering from something clinical that was just not diagnosed yet, to do something unthinkable. Wouldn’t you have thought then, Mark, to end the marriage with dignity and respect, rather than lying behind her back and running about? Didn’t Jennair at least deserve to know very early on that you wanted to try things apart, before starting a big love with Meredith and lying about it? Doesn’t everyone know that if you are married and thinking of seeing other people the marriage is just not working for you? The lies may have done it, it was just a very disrespectful choice toward the marriage and towards a person.

  15. Hi Mark. Thank you for your response. I’ve been having an affair with someone I’ve fallen madly in love with. My husband is devastated and starting to do some of the things Jennair did. He’s got tracking devices on our vehicles, on my phone, he hid in the back of my vehicle when I went to the store. We’ve been married 19 years and have 9 children, all ours together. Our kids are all in Catholic school and I coach girls volley ball there. He’s threatening to tell everyone there. He’s going crazy. Do you have any advice. I read your book in 2 days. I couldn’t put it down. Please help.

    1. Kimberly, you are likely not going to like my answer. I know how difficult it will be, but you need to end the affair. If you read my book, you know how much I regret not making different choices. You still have that chance. If you want to stay in your marriage, then find the reason you let the affair happen and work on it with your husband. If not, then take the time to end your marriage with grace and dignity. He deserves that. And so do you.

      1. I think this is really good to bring awareness to this subject as it may not be common knowledge (as I had thought) that if you are thinking about, or in the process of dating while married, the marriage wasn’t working. I think people should know that if you were in a marriage that wasn’t working, and it doesn’t matter if it was weeks, months, or years, maybe you kept letting things slide that just weren’t ok with you, so you need to tell your husband/wife that you need to separate/end the marriage to work on yourself- not to date or have affairs. Bringing an affair to the marriage that isn’t working will cause hurt, resentment, or revenge. Thank you Mark for sharing this story. I know many people have thoughts and feeling about this, as I do, but I do think that your honesty in this book and about your life may prevent other tragedies in relationships.

  16. Mark,
    Once Jennair exposed your affair you went to great lengths to protect Meredith even if it that caused tremendous pain and anxiety to Jennair. But with the help of Meredith’s friend you went into hiding after the shooting. Why did you stop protecting Meredith’s reputation, etc.? Obviously you must have been in shock but it was a contrast to how protective you were of her before the tragedy. Your description of Jennair!s anxiety and helplessness that all of this caused her was heartbreaking to read. Do you regret doing that?

    1. Susan, I have not stopped defending Meredith’s reputation. Quite the opposite. Sharing the truth of what actually happened hopefully shows just how human and imperfect we all were. Meredith was an amazing woman. Brilliant. Talented. But painting her as perfect and flawless isn’t reality and doesn’t do justice to who she actually she was. As Meredith once described herself to me, “I’m flawsome.”

  17. Hi, Mark: Your book is very powerful. I felt you are a talented and convincing writer and worked very hard to tell all sides. I ended up with a few questions. Were you able to keep the new job you had just started, or have you had to pick up and move elsewhere?

    1. Thank you for your comment, Carol. I stayed at that job for seven months before I had to admit my heart and head just weren’t in it. I have since moved away and started doing freelance work, which allows me time to write and volunteer for causes I believe in.

  18. Mark, I finished your book and it has stuck with me. It resonated. Those that judge were not in your shoes and its easy to cast stones from a distance. I hope that you are able to find some peace and work on moving your life and yourself forward in a healthy way. I know I have made some serious mistakes in my life and I have to work to forgive myself, and so your story resonates with me on many levels. I appreciate that you shared such an intimate and tragic story, and even the mistakes that you made as I know how cruel people can be. I hope that others will find your story and learn from it. I feel for all involved. Thank you for sharing. Sarah

  19. Dear Mark, thank you for telling your story. You were meant to write it as I was to read it. I appreciate your brutal honesty, gut wrenching pain , guilt, shame and humility. I suffer from mental health issues and completely relate to Jennair. I just turned 50 years old and struggle with severe depression. It’s been overwhelming for me. You gave Jennair the ultimate gift she was looking for, to be loved enough to understand her better than she knew herself or could understand herself. You not only told the world, the ugly truth about Jennairs mental illness but underneath it all, how she was a brilliant, beautiful, love able person. Your story has helped me in my daily struggle of feeling “not good enough”.

  20. I just came across your book on Amazon. I did not see your 20/20 interview. I will say that I thought the only part you got right was your feelings for Meredith couldn’t have been as an intense in 24 weeks as the over 20+ years with Jennair. She made you feel energized, well like you said you had multiple opportunities to say NO. If you wanted a change or needed to feel energized, then find it with your wife, problems, go to counseling, her depression was bringing you down, just WOW. Now she had mental health issues, well I think anyone would in the same situation. She could have rebuilt her life, you wanted out and convinced yourself of that. As someone who met the love of my life, spend almost 20 years with him, lose him in death & our children to lose their father, you didn’t obviously know the meaning of your vows. We had problems, we broke up, we found a way through by supporting each other and guess what I had anxiety disorder & depression while we were together but he stuck with me. PTSD, yes because I watched him die slowly in the hospital for over a month. I don’t feel sorry for you. I didn’t expect you to make Meredith be the one you had to protect at the expense of your wife. Yes Jennair suffered from depression before all this and probably bipolar or something undiagnosed but I don’t think the blame goes to her.

  21. I just finished your book. There probably isn’t a human alive who hasn’t been tempted by the greener grass elsewhere. And since time began people leave relationships, or stay, and enjoy that grass, metaphorically speaking. You couldn’t perceive how your wife controlled you and it was normal to you and now you know for sure it wasn’t. You found someone to bring joy to your life and that’s every bit intoxicating as any substance. Endorphins firing on all cylinders. That’s what we want in life, that pure joy and it’s so rare. You’ are human and you couldn’t have know the tragedy that would ensue. You are still here and it’s easy to blame you and you do share in that to the extent that you didn’t end your marriage and then find someone. But your weren’t looking and sometimes fate intervenes. So so tragic that this ended this way. I hope time will dull the sharpness of this pain because it will never leave, it will just become part of you. A manageable part as you find out what chapters are still to be written in your life.

  22. Hello,
    I appreciate your brutal honesty and self reflection. I couldn’t put your book down once I began. I heard about this tragedy on the national news. It was and is, very sad. I appreciate your blog post related to the outcome of your beautiful dogs and I’m deeply sorry for your loss. I think it was so sweet to take their ashes to your wife’s gravesite. However, I am a cat lover- please tell me whatever happened to Gypsy. I’m a complete stranger living in NC, having been married 33 years today. Marriage is hard. I think you’ve handled this whole thing as well as you could have. Writing the book probably helped you more than anything else. Your help, encouragement and insight for mental health awareness is admirable. I sincerely hope you are able to live a satisfying and content life. I read that you are now in the San Diego area. My best wishes, but please do reply as to Gypsy! Thank you.

  23. I don’t have a lot of compassion for your wife. It’s probably because I know someone with BPD who is an abusive mother and your wife sounds exactly like her. Anyway at some point I hope you see yourself as a victim. Because you are. Both you and Meredith. Neither of you deserve what she did despite what both of you did wrong. You do, however, deserve to find happiness again and joy. Meredith does, too, of course but she won’t have that opportunity. Life your life well enough for both of you.

  24. I read this book in one sitting and I think it is the most honest book I’ve ever read from a male perspective, about infidelity. It’s odd that something that affects so many couples is something that is not very talked about. I think Mark was able to convey how wonderful the 2 people that tragically passed were. It is refreshing to read something so honest and raw. Hope you are doing well Mark!!

  25. Mark, here’s the bottom line for me: you didn’t really have to write this book at all. But you did, knowing there would be criticism, and an inability by some to ever imagine themselves in your place.
    It might be helpful for you to know, that your book brought me back from the precipice of making what could’ve been a terrible mistake, by reminding me that the price could be too high. And for that, I am truly grateful. Thank you for having the courage to sharing your most personal story. You never know how it might help someone else.

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