(File)

(File)

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- A defrocked New Jersey priest-turned-teacher was found murdered in his Henderson home. 

Police said officers were conducting a welfare check about 9:30 a.m. Saturday when they found the body of John Capparelli, 70, in his house in the 1400 block of Bonner Springs Drive, near Eastern Avenue and Reunion Drive. 

Henderson Police declined a request for an interview but a police source told FOX5 Capparelli had a history of hiring male prostitutes. 

On Feb 13, the archdiocese of New Jersey released 188 names of priests accused of abusing children, including Capparelli. Less than a month later, he was murdered.

More than two dozen men have come forward saying Capparelli abused them sexually or physically dating back to the 1970s. Multiple accusations said Capparelli made them wrestle in swimwear while he took photos. 

Rich Fitter said he is one of the victims.

"He would have you wrestle in Speedos because he said that with gym shorts or sweatpants somebody could get a finger tangled up and break a finger." 

The two met in 1982, when Fitter was 15 years old. At the time, Fitter said Capparelli was a trusted priest at Our Lady of Peace in New Providence, New Jersey. 

"He kind of played the role of being that cool adult that you hung out with," Fitter said. 

Fitter was in Capparelli's "wrestling club" for more than a year. During that time, the relationship grew outside of the wrestling mat. 

He would call up and say, 'Hey, you know, you want to go for pizza?' And you’d go for pizza and he’d be like, 'Lets stop by the gym and we’ll grab a quick workout.'" 

Fitter said he and his parents didn't think anything of it since Capparelli was known around town as a "good guy." 

Capparelli started wrestling one-on-one with Fitter, he said. 

"That’s when his hands would start to wander and that’s when it really got weird.”

Fitter said the priest's hand would wander at places like the movies, too. 

"When he jumped, he reached in and grabbed the inside of my thigh. It was really a very uncomfortable moment." 

In 1983, Fitter said he found a stack of Capparelli's wrestling Polaroids. 

"Most of the pictures were focused on our privates parts or there were a lot of pictures of facial expressions of people in obvious pain or exhaustion." 

Fitter said he confronted Capparelli, who didn't like the questions. 

"When we went downstairs, it turned into a physical violent sexual assault." 

Fitter didn't talk about what happened for seven years. He said as he tried to forget, his personality changed. 

"My parents wanted to know, 'Are you on drugs? You're wearing these dark clothes and you're angry all the time.'" 

Years later, Fitter was working in a local deli. He said a different priest walked in who triggered repressed memories. 

"I remember my knees buckling and grabbing the counter," he said. 

That's when Fitter told his parents and reported Capparelli to the Archdiocese. 

"All I asked was that he not be allowed near kids because he was dangerous." 

Instead, Capparelli had more access to kids. 

A detailed report by NJ Advance Media in 2013 said Capparelli was suspended from the ministry in 1992, then became a public school teacher in 1993.

He wasn't charged with a crime, which is why nothing was flagged as he became an educator. 

Capparelli also taught as a professor at Seton Hall University. On Rate My Professor, one of the reviews reads, "If you want an A in the class, just be the lucky student he picks to wrestle."  

Fitter filed a lawsuit in 2011 against Capparelli and the church for allowing the former priest to be around kids. 

"I got a settlement that probably doesn't even cover my years of therapy but that wasn't the point." 

In 2013, the New Jersey Attorney General asked Fitter to testify against Capparelli. He never got to face his accuser in court. 

"He chose to surrender his license voluntarily and retire," said Fitter. 

The newspaper in New Jersey linked Capparelli to a fetish website that he ran from his home, then disclosed the stories of many of his accusers.

Then in the years following, he moved to Henderson.

Neighbors said that the man was quiet, and kept to himself. Another described him as pleasant and said they spoke to him when they walked their dogs.

"You never know who your neighbors are," John Deangelo.

Fitter said there are probably a lot of people who are happy Capparelli is dead.

"I think there are a lot of people who wanted him dead ... I think the world is a better place and I think its a safer place without him." 

Now he has a message for our community. 

"If there is anybody that he preyed on, come forward and start healing from it." 

The Clark County Coroner's Office said he was shot in the neck and ruled his death homicide. No suspect information was available, police said.

This was Henderson's third homicide of 2019.

Copyright 2019 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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FOX5 Multimedia Journalist

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(1) comment

Snowflaker

Ahh, Catholicism. Promoting child rape since who knows when. Psst...it's not faith, it's just a voice in your silly head. Religion kills! Make America Read Again!

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