Should School Buildings Be Named for Notorious Family?

June 19, 2006 — -- For two, old private schools in the Wilmington area, this was to be a summer of fulfilling grand plans.

The schools are caught up in a bitter controversy over a Delaware family whose name is synonymous with wealth, influence and scandal.

The Archmere Academy, an elite Catholic high school, and St. Edmonds Academy School, an elementary school, have agreed to name new buildings after the parents of an alumnus whose foundation gave each school $1 million.

The alumnus, Louis Capano Jr., however, was involved in one of Delaware's most notorious crimes, and the family of the victim is in no mood to forgive and forget.

"I consider it a slap in the face," said Kathleen Fahey-Hosey, whose younger sister, Anne Marie Fahey, disappeared nearly 10 years ago.

Fahey, a vivacious 30-year-old, had worked in the office of Delaware's governor. Her abrupt disappearance in June 1996 prompted searches in several mid-Atlantic states and attracted national media attention.

A prominent Delaware lawyer, Thomas Capano, who had served as a state prosecutor, became the focus of police attention when his name turned up in Fahey's diary. According to her sister, the diary entry described Capano as her "troubled and jealous" lover.

For more than a year, Capano played cat and mouse with investigators until two of his brothers cracked under pressure from police. Gerard Capano admitted helping dispose of Fahey's body in the Atlantic. Louis Capano Jr. admitted helping destroy evidence, including a bloodstained sofa. Fahey's body was never found.

A jury convicted Thomas Capano of first-degree murder. He is now serving life in prison. The eventual cooperation of his brothers got them probation.

Controversial Donations

It is Capano's younger brother, Louis, a wealthy developer, whose foundation has donated $2 million in return for naming two school buildings after his parents.

A lead prosecutor in the case, Colm Connolly -- himself a graduate of Archmere Academy -- considers that a deal with the devil.

"A gift is given unconditionally," Connolly said. "This is a contract that the Capano family will give a large amount of money, and the Catholic Church … will pay tribute to a family that is really a family of mainly criminals."

A group of parents at Archmere have set up a Web site to register protests. An organizer Mary Beth Phillips said, "When you put a name like that on the building, it says, 'Money talks and Jesus walks.'"

Officials at Archmere Academy declined an interview request from ABC News. In a recent letter to parents, the headmaster, the Rev. John Zagarella, wrote, "Our decision focused on the undeniable benefit to our students."

Fahey-Hosey said that Louis Capano Jr. had never apologized for his role in the cover-up of Fahey's murder. Capano said he had "apologized repeatedly" following the settlement of a civil lawsuit in 2001.

The naming dispute has splintered an elite and influential community. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, whose children attend both schools, declined a second term on the St. Edmonds' board in protest. Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, an Archmere alumnus, continues to co-chair the school's fundraising committee.

Meanwhile, Fahey-Hosey shudders at the thought of her nephew entering Archmere's new Student Life Center -- slated to bear the Capano name -- because it will also contain a chapel.

"To know that my nephew is going to be asked to worship in that chapel and it's named after the family that murdered his aunt," she said. "I have a problem with that."

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