Suspect in shooting death of former New Jersey priest answered a Craigslist ad

Derrick Decoste Credit Oakland County Sheriffs Office Derrick Decoste. Photo via Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

The man suspected in the March shooting death of a former priest who was credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors had responded to a Craigslist ad looking for young men to wrestle, according to Nevada police.

John Capparelli, 70, was found dead in the kitchen of his Henderson, Nev., home March 9 with a gunshot wound to the neck. He had been a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, and was accused of groping, abusing, and photographing underage males, often in the context of wrestling.

Henderson police issued a warrant April 4 for the arrest of Derrick Decoste, 25, on charges of murder and robbery with a deadly weapon in connection with Capparelli's death.

Police discovered phone records demonstrating that Capperelli exchanged calls and texts with a number linked to Decoste between Feb. 21 and March 6.

Decoste's girlfriend told police he was "eager to make money" and so had responded to Capparelli's post seeking wrestlers, Mike Shoro of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported June 4.

She indicated that Decoste said he had robbed Capparelli after his second visit to his home. She turned over to police a bag with several wristwatches, at least one of which was identifiable as Capparelli's, and Decoste's handgun. Capparelli was shot with that handgun, according to the warrant.

The warrant said that investigators found in Capparelli's home hundreds of homemade films with "nearly-nude men wrestling inside of the home, presumably while the victim filmed them," and indications he "often kept the company of prostitutes or paid entertainers."

They also found a hard copy of a Craigslist ad from Capparelli seeking "young and good looking men" willing to wrestle or to compete in "submission matches."

During a March 26 interview with Henderson detectives "Decoste clearly intended to deceive investigators to include providing misleading information," according to the warrant.

Decoste is in a county jail in Michigan on unrelated charges of credit card fraud and impersonating a police officer, and is awaiting extradition to Nevada.

Capparelli was removed from parish ministry in 1989, suspended from any ministry in 1992, and was dismissed from the clerical state around 2013.

He was never prosecuted or convicted of a crime, but he was at the center of lawsuits against himself, the Newark archdiocese, Theodore McCarrick, and the Boy Scouts of America. At least one suit resulted in a settlement.

At one time he ran a website which sold videos of adult men wrestling in very little clothing.

Capparelli was ordained in 1980, and was assigned at three parishes, a prep school, and as a temporary chaplain at a hospital.

According to the Newark archdiocese's list of credibly accused clerics, Capparelli had multiple victims, and had been "Permanently removed from ministry/Laicized". Accusations against him date from the 1970s through the early 1990s.

In 1993, one year after being suspended from ministry, Capparelli became a public school teacher in Newark. In 2011 he was teaching math to ninth graders, according to The Star-Ledger.

The Newark school district learned of the allegations from the The Star-Ledger in 2011, and reviewed his record, but said there were no allegations against his time as a teacher. He was soon after removed from the classroom and given an administrative position at the school district's headquarters. Spokeswoman Renee Harper said that "he has not been demoted and remains an employee in good standing."

More in US

He also served as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University from 1990 to 2009, The Star-Ledger found.

Capparelli was sent to a treatment center in Jemez Springs, N.M., for several months in 1989 on the recommendation of Theodore McCarrick, who was then the Archbisop of Newark.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.