Sadness, Not Anger At Leps Funeral Nicole Leps Was Remembered As A Cheerful Person. Mourners Were Asked To Copy That.

Posted: June 17, 1994

WATERFORD TOWNSHIP — There were prayers and hymns. Hands clutching tissues and damp eyes.

But there was little anger evident yesterday morning as about 200 friends and relatives gathered to say goodbye to Nicole M. Leps, a young woman who had appeared to be on the verge of beginning a new career.

The absence of anger seemed to please the Rev. John Taxter, who asked the mourners at the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church to keep their spirits aloft and not hold bitterness toward the man who killed Leps.

The 24-year-old Winslow Township resident was shot to death Sunday night by an ex-suitor, Nicholas Spennato, who also took the life of a Winslow police officer and his own.

"It's easy for a community to feel they've been violated by a senseless act . . . but as Christians and Catholics, we're called upon to forgive," Father Taxter said.

He spoke of the devastation of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., when the Chaldeans captured the city, and recalled the prophet Jeremiah's words upon witnessing the destruction: "I see this as a reason to have hope . . . the favors of the Lord are not exhausted."

"This is about the devastation of two cities," he said. "Winslow and Waterford . . . and someone whose life was meaningful to both townships."

He then called upon residents to forgive Spennato.

"It would be very easy to say there are no villians . . . but there is, and it's not the poor sociopath who couldn't accept rejection."

The culprit, he said, is a system "that allows a machine gun to wind up in the hands of those not competent to use them." Spennato, a convicted felon, had used a .45 caliber semiautomatic weapon to shoot Leps and Winslow officer Daniel Calabrese before killing himself.

"Anger, no; bitterness, no; legislation, yes," he said.

Father Taxter said Leps was "there as a cheerleader . . . and that's what I'm asking you to do now, raise your spirits."

He pointed to Leps' mother Marybeth Leps as a role model. "She said to me, 'I've lived my life for 45 years without anger . . . and I'm not going to let this one-time event change this', " Father Taxter said.

Marybeth Leps went to the front of the church and addressed friends and family. "I want to thank everyone here for your love and support," she said. ''And I love all of you."

As 10 pallbearers - all friends of Nicole Leps - brought her cloth-covered casket outside, her father, Charles, placed his arm around Marybeth to comfort her.

Nicole Leps was working as a waitress at the Winslow restaurant where she was killed, but Father Taxter and mourners at the funeral remembered her other work, including her apprenticeship at the Leroy Wooster Funeral Home, and her recent stint of substitute-teaching at Edgewood High School, where she graduated in 1987.

Despite her many jobs and activities, "she was no fly-by-night, in terms of religion," Father Taxter said after the service. The pastor saw Leps each week at St. Anthony's, which is just over the Winslow Township border in Waterford Township.

Leps loved children, and it was to Edgewood's feeder school, Edgewood Junior High School, that she had hoped to return as a child psychologist, her father said.

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