Mystery Deepens over Nevada Murder of Ex-priest from N.J. ‘credibly Accused’ of Sexual Abuse of Boys
By Chris Kudialis
March 19, 2019
|John Capparelli moved to Henderson, Nevada, three years ago. Police responded to a welfare check last Saturday at his home on Bonner Springs Drive, and found Capparelli shot dead in an apparent homicide. (Chris Kudialis for NJ Advance Media)|
More than a week after police found him shot in the neck in his house in the Nevada desert, John Capparelli’s killer remains a mystery.
Police say they are still investigating who shot the disgraced ex-priest from New Jersey in the kitchen of the well-kept house where the alleged child molester had started a new life.
“We have no additional information,” said Officer Rod Pena, a spokesman for the Henderson, Nevada, police department.
The investigation remains open, Pena added. Police have not said if they suspect if Capparelli’s killer was a stranger or someone he knew -- or if his death was related to the release last month of the former priest’s name on a list of 188 New Jersey priests and deacons “credibly accused” of past sexual abuse of children.
Shortly after Capparelli moved to a Las Vegas suburb from New Jersey three years ago, he invited his next-door neighbor and his wife over for dessert.
Capparelli told the couple he was a retired math teacher from New Jersey and in the course of the conversation he went to great lengths to explain why he had so many young visitors, the neighbor said. Capparelli said he was tutoring students in his home.
But Capparelli never mentioned he had once been a priest and never alluded to his past problems in New Jersey.
|John Capparelli in a photo taken in 2011. The former priest was found murdered in Nevada on March 9, 2019. (Star-Ledger file photo)|
The neighbor, who did not want to be identified, noted that over the years Capparelli would routinely have a couple of visitors a week and all were young, high school and college aged men.
It was the only time the former priest invited the neighbor over to his house. Capparelli didn’t socialize with other neighbors on Bonner Springs Drive, many who had also moved to the subdivision in Henderson from the East Coast.
Capparelli, 70, was found shot to death in his house March 9 after police were asked to conduct a welfare check. Police said the death was being investigated as a homicide and no suspect has been identified. Police did not say whether there was any indication of a break-in.
A police source told FOX5 in Las Vegas that Capparelli had a history of hiring male prostitutes.
In New Jersey, Capparelli was accused of groping, photographing and brutalizing young boys, often asking them to wrestle in tight swimwear. He was also linked to a fetish website he allegedly ran. He was removed from ministry in 1992 and eventually defrocked by the Catholic Church.
He went on to teach in Newark Public School for years until a Star-Ledger story about his past led to his retirement from teaching after he voluntarily surrendered his teaching licenses.
Last month, he was one of 188 priests and deacons in the state who had been “credibly accused” of child sexual abuse, according to a list released by New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses last month. The allegations against him were well known in New Jersey.
But in his Henderson neighborhood, Capparelli was an elusive presence.
John D’Angelo, a Manhattan native who lived two doors down from Capparelli, and another neighbor across the street, who wished to remain anonymous, said the former priest was not particularly social, and would sometimes even ignore greetings from neighbors when they said hello to him as he walked his black Labrador retriever.
D’Angelo also noted Capparelli had a steady stream of visitors and there were frequently cars parked outside his home.
Capparelli’s house was the only one of 14 on his block with an American flag hung next to the garage, blowing in the slight desert breeze one day last week. It sat empty with signs and stickers from security company ADT reminding passersby that it was protected.
Back in New Jersey, a former neighbor of Capparelli’s in Essex County was still processing his death.
Geneva Landolfi lives next door to where Capparelli lived with his mother for many years on Greylock Parkway in Belleville.
“They were there a long time. He took very good care of his mother,” Landolfi said.
Landolfi said the former priest was a nice guy who used to sit out back with her husband and smoke cigars. He was an excellent gardener and the two families would share tomatoes and other vegetables.
They never spoke of the men who had come forward to accused Capparelli of abuse when they were boys in his parishes, Landolfi said.
“We never talked about it. I knew about it because it was in the paper," Landolfi said. "But he never talked about it and we never brought it up. We were never concerned. The kids were never concerned. I had grandkids here and there was never a problem.”
Landolfi said she knew Capparelli had a male friend in Nevada before he moved there, but little else about the ex-priest’s retirement in Henderson.
“I can’t believe he died," she said. "I wonder if anybody was after him because his name was in the paper with all those other priests?”