News and Commentary

Former Priest Accused Of Sex Abuse Of Minors Found Shot To Death

A former priest accused of molesting minors was found dead Saturday morning in what police say they are investigating as a homicide.

On Saturday, police conducted a welfare check on John Capparelli — a former priest and teacher in New Jersey who moved to Henderson, Nevada — and found him dead in the kitchen with a gunshot wound to the neck.

“The Clark County Coroner’s Office said Capparelli, 70, died from a single gunshot wound to the neck,” NBC News reports. Police told the press they did not yet have a suspect.

Capparelli, NBC reports, is one of over 180 clergy listed last month by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark as having been “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors during his time as a priest.

The list describes Capparelli as having been accused of abusing “multiple” victims and having been “permanently removed from ministry.” Among the places he was assigned was a prep school in Summit, New Jersey. The list contains the following information about Capparelli (formatting adjusted):

  • Name: John Capparelli
  • Dates: Born 1948; Ordained 1980
  • Assignments:
    • Our Lady of Fatima, North Bergen
    • Oratory Prep, Summit
    • Holy Trinity, Westfield
    • St. Theresa, Kenilworth
    • Temporary Chaplain – Valley Hospital, Ridgewood
  • Victims: Multiple
  • Status: Permanently removed from ministry/Laicized

The former priest was never convicted of a crime, but was removed from ministry in 1992 after mutliple accusers came forward to acccuse him of “groping and brutalzing teen boys,” reported in 2014.

The sex abuse claims against Capparelli date back to the 1970s through the early 1990s. “Though he was never convicted of a crime, multiple accusers said Capparelli made them wrestle in swimwear while he took photos,” noted in its report on his death. “He was also linked to a fetish website that he allegedly ran from his home.”

After being laicized, Capparelli went on to be a public school teacher in Newark for about two decades, reports. He had his teaching certificates revoked after reports about the allegations surfaced. Capparelli made headlines in May 2014 after his presence at an event in Wayne, New Jersey resulted in the suspension of the pastor who allegedly invited him as a personal guest.

The Catholic Church has been reeling from a flood of accusations against hundreds of clergy. Amid mounting pressure, the Newark archdiocese released in mid-February its list of nearly 190 priests credibly accused of abusing minors. “The lists released Wednesday identified priests and deacons who served in the dioceses of Camden, Trenton, Metuchen and Paterson and the archdiocese of Newark,” CBS New York reported at the time. “Many priests on the lists are deceased, and others have been removed from ministry.” As is the case with Capparelli, some of the allegations go back decades.

In August 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury identified over 300 credibly accused “predator priests” whose total victims allegedly top 1,000, CBS reported. “Today, the most comprehensive report on child sexual abuse within the church ever produced in our country was released,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “Pennsylvanians can finally learn the extent of sexual abuse in these dioceses. For the first time, we can all begin to understand the systematic cover up by church leaders that followed. The abuse scarred every diocese. The cover up was sophisticated. The church protected the institution at all costs.”