John Capparelli priest defrocked for sex abuse killed in his home

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John Capparelli priest defrocked for sex abuse killed in his home.

A former New Jersey priest and schoolteacher who had been accused of sexually abusing minors was found shot to death in his Nevada home Saturday, authorities said.

John Capparelli, 70, died of a single gunshot to the neck, said a spokeswoman from the Clark County Coroner’s Office.

His body was found Saturday morning during a welfare check of his two-bedroom home on Bonner Springs Drive.

Henderson police are investigating Capparelli’s death, which has been ruled a homicide, said police public information officer Katrina Rothmeyer.

“Preliminary investigation indicates the victim died of suspicious circumstances, and the incident is being investigated as a homicide,” she said. A suspect has not immediately been identified, but police are following up on leads.

At the Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity in Westfield, one of the New Jersey churches where Capparelli served, a man who answered the phone sounded stunned and saddened when told of the violent death of the former priest. “I hadn’t heard — the diocese didn’t say anything about it,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “It’s very sad. Every violent death is a tragic loss.”

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Accused of groping and brutalizing teenage boys in the 1980s, Capparelli was permanently removed from ministry in 1992, then defrocked. His teaching license was subsequently revoked in a settlement.

Capparelli, who had lived in Belleville, moved to Nevada, where records show he purchased his home in Henderson for $319,000 in 2016.

“The Archdiocese of Newark has no information concerning Mr. Capparelli’s death or any investigation related to his death,” spokeswoman Maria Margiotta said Tuesday.

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Robert Hoatson, who runs the Livingston-based non-profit Road to Recovery, which aids sexual abuse survivors, said he has helped some of Capparelli’s victims. He said he fears that the violent death may trigger some victims.

“The murder of the former priest John Capparelli is shocking and sad,” Hoatson said. “That’s not the way we want people to be handled. We want them to go through the proper procedures. We hope the victims are taking care of themselves and that the murderer is brought to justice.”

In February, Capparelli’s name was on the list of Catholic priests in New Jersey who had been credibly accused of sexually abusing children. The state’s five dioceses — Camden, Newark, Paterson, Metuchen and Trenton — released names of priests who were credibly accused of sexually abusing minors in incidents that dated back to 1940.

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Capparelli was ordained in 1980 and assigned to churches and institutions around New Jersey, including Our Lady of Fatima in North Bergen, Oratory Prep in Summit, Holy Trinity in Westfield, and the Church of St. Theresa In Kenilworth. He was also a temporary chaplain at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood. Everyone contacted at those institutions declined to comment.

He stopped working as a priest about 20 years ago and began working as a teacher in Newark public schools until allegations against him surfaced in 2011.

In 2014, the pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Roman Catholic Church in Wayne was suspended after he allowed Capparelli to attend a family festival at the church as his guest.

Capparelli’s death marks the third homicide in Henderson for 2019.

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