Murder of Ex-Priest Formerly Accused of Sex Abuse May Be Linked to Craigslist Ad He Placed for “Male Wrestlers;” Cops Say
A man being held in a Michigan jail has been named as a suspect in the March 2019 murder of a defrocked Catholic priest who had been accused of sexual abuse.
HENDERSON, NV — A man being held in a Michigan jail has been named as a suspect in the March 2019 murder of a defrocked Catholic priest who had been accused of sexual abuse, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
The arrest affidavit alleges that Derrick Decoste, 25, went to the Henderson, Nevada home of John Capparelli, 70, on March 6, after the ex-clergyman allegedly posted an ad on Craigslist seeking “male wrestlers.”
Neighbors reportedly told police that that was the last day they saw Capparelli alive.
Officers from the Henderson Police Department stated that after being dispatched to perform a wellness check on March 9 they found Capparelli dead of a single gunshot wound to the neck.
From there, investigators reportedly matched Decoste’s name to a cellphone number that Capparelli, 70, called repeatedly on March 6.
Decoste is presently in custody at the Oakland County Jail in Pontiac, Michigan on charges unrelated to the alleged murder. Court documents reportedly indicate that Decoste has a criminal record that includes being arrested for home invasion, burglary, and battery. Nevada authorities said they intend to extradite him.
The affidavit further alleges that Decoste had been renting a room in nearby North Las Vegas and that he responded to Capparelli’s ad by showing up at the former priest’s residence.
The affidavit claims that during interrogation, Decoste told a detective it was a “gig” posing for photographs. Decoste’s girlfriend, however, reportedly said it involved wrestling.
Police said the girlfriend also provided them with a 9-millimeter handgun that she claimed belonged to Decoste. The weapon’s caliber, officers reported, matched a cartridge casing discovered at the crime scene.
In addition to naming items allegedly missing from Capparelli’s home, the affidavit reportedly states, “Investigators located a printed out Craigslist ad which had been placed by the victim. The ad sought out ‘young and good looking men’ who would be willing to wrestle and or compete in ‘submission matches.’”
Decoste has reportedly denied owning the gun and said he did not harm Capparelli during what he claims was a brief encounter.
According to church authorities John Capparelli was ordained to the priesthood in Newark, New Jersey in 1980 and worked multiple parishes around New Jersey before he was defrocked twelve years later.
Last February, according to multiple media reports, Capparelli’s name appeared on a statement issued by the state’s Catholic dioceses that listed nearly 200 clergymen who were “credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor.”
Subsequent lawsuits reportedly accuse Capparelli of groping and otherwise targeting teenage boys, particularly those he coached in wrestling - allegedly forcing them to pose for photos while wrestling in swimsuits.
Capparelli had issued no comment on the allegations and never faced any criminal charges.
In 2013, NJ.com reported that Capparelli was kicked out of the priesthood in 1992 and, the following year, became a public school teacher. The report also alleged that Capparelli ran an all-male wrestling fetish website.
The current arrest affidavit reportedly notes that investigators searching Capparelli’s home found “hundreds of homemade DVDs that featured nearly nude men wrestling inside the home, presumably while the victim filmed them.”
John Fitter, one of Capparelli’s accusers, is quoted by KVVU saying, “I think there are a lot of people who wanted him dead... I think the world is a better place and I think it’s a safer place without him."
The station also said Fitter added, “If there is anybody [else] that he preyed on, come forward and start healing from it.”