A former New Jersey priest who was accused of sexually molesting dozens of young boys in the ’70s and ’80s was found dead in his Nevada home over the weekend, authorities said.
John Capparelli’s body was discovered Saturday morning during a wellness check. The 70-year-old’s death, which was deemed suspicious, is being investigated as a homicide, the Henderson Police Department said in a statement.
The Clark County Coroner’s Office, reached by Fox5 News, said he had been shot in the neck.
Capparelli’s death comes one month after his name was listed among 188 priests and deacons that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark said had been “credibly accused” of sexual crimes against children. Of those names, more than 100 are dead.
A police spokeswoman, reached by HuffPost on Wednesday, declined to release additional details about the case but said a suspect has not been identified at this time.
Capparelli, facing abuse allegations, was removed from the Catholic ministry in 1992 and went on to work as a math teacher at a Newark public high school. On the side, he operated a fetish website out of his home that featured men wrestling, according to New Jersey’s Star-Ledger newspaper, which has reported extensively on the abuse allegations against him.
He had his teaching certificate removed in 2011 after the abuse allegations were revealed by the Newark-based paper. He then moved to Nevada in 2016.
“The world is a safer place without him,” Rich Fitter, one of his accusers, recently told the Star-Ledger after hearing the news of his death. “The guy had a 40-year record of abuse. Whatever led to his death, it’s a certain amount of karma.”
Fitter, speaking to local papers back in 2011, described Capparelli as preying upon young men by recruiting them to his wrestling team. There, he’d have them wrestle in Speedo swimsuits, arguing that loose fabric could get caught and injure them. He’d take photos of them and sometimes get on the mat and wrestle with them as well.
“He would put a head scissors on you, and your face would be right in front of his crotch,” Fitter told the Star-Ledger in 2011.
Fellow victim Brian Power, also speaking to the paper back in 2011, described Capparelli as pressuring him for months to join his wrestling team. Power said he eventually relented and did attend but didn’t go back after an uncomfortable experience while alone with the then-priest. He said his mother threatened to call the police on Capparelli after he wouldn’t stop hounding him to return to the team.
“There was definitely something way out of the ordinary about the way this guy was pursuing me,” Power told the paper. “He was basically stalking me.”