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Suspect in ex-priest’s slaying sent to Vegas to face charges

Associated Press

Las Vegas – A suspect in the killing of a former priest has been returned to Las Vegas from Michigan to face robbery and murder charges.

Records show that Derrick Mitchell Decoste, 26, was booked Monday in the Clark County jail pending a court appearance in the March 2019 shooting death of former priest John Capparelli. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.

Capparelli, 70, was killed several weeks after church officials in New Jersey named him among 180 priests accused of sexual abuse. Authorities have not linked the killing to the New Jersey allegations.

This booking photo provided by the Oakland County, Mich., Sheriff's Office shows Derrick Mitchell Decoste.

Police in Henderson, Nevada, said it appeared robbery was the motive, and that Decoste met and exchanged messages with Capparelli for several weeks after answering an internet ad for male wrestlers.

Capparelli lived alone and tutored students at his house, investigators said in arrest warrant documents. Police said they found hand-written logs involving “paid entertainers” and indications that Capparelli posted internet ads seeking young men.

Police interviewed Decoste after his arrest March 12 in Las Vegas on unrelated petty theft and trespassing charges. That case was later dismissed and Decoste was transferred from Las Vegas to Oakland County, Michigan, to face charges including theft, fraud and impersonating a police officer.

Decoste pleaded guilty in May and served jail time in Michigan for illegal possession of a law enforcement badge and for possession of financial transaction devices, according to court records.

In Henderson, police said Decoste’s girlfriend gave investigators a 9mm handgun that she said belonged to Decoste, and investigators determined it was used to kill Capparelli.

Police said they found a bag containing Capparelli’s personal items, including a wristwatch with a Newark Teachers Union logo that a relative said Capparelli received as a union official in 2008.

Capparelli was defrocked as a priest in 1992 after being accused of abusing teenage boys in the 1970s and 1980s at churches around New Jersey. He worked as a public school math teacher in Newark until other allegations emerged in 2011.