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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24 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

  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

  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.

  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

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