The NYPD is looking for a third person in connection to the murder of a Connecticut man whose body was found buried in a shallow grave in New Jersey. Police believed that Joey Comunale, 26, was stabbed 15 times in an Upper East Side apartment on Sunday and that his killers doused him with gasoline in an attempt to burn the body.
Comunale, a Hofstra graduate who lived in Stamford, had come to Manhattan to party with friends on Saturday. They apparently met up with James Rackover and Lawrence Dilione; police say that Comunale, two men and three women were seen on surveillance video going to Rackover's building, 418 East 59th Street. The three women left on Sunday morning.
On Tuesday morning, Comunale's father reported him missing and police soon descended on the apartment building, finding bloody items. NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said, "We uncovered a substantial amount of blood evidence inside the building, inside plastic bags that were downstairs through the garbage chute, in what were his clothing."
Surveillance video showed a male building resident wheeling two large pieces of luggage on a cart from the building on Sunday night. He then put the items into a car. The resident, WCBS 2 reported, "asked a doorman how long surveillance videos are kept on file."
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It's believed that Dilione, 28, told police that Comunale's bludgeoned and stabbed body was buried behind a florist in Oceanport, NJ. Dilione, who lives in Jersey City, had previously lived in Oceanport and apparently also worked near there.
Dilione and Rackover, 25, were initially arrested for murder, but were only arraigned on charges of concealment of a corpse and hindering prosecution. Rackover was also charged with aggravated unlicensed driving. A prosecutor from the Manhattan DA's office said, "One or both of these people committed a murder."
Yesterday, Boyce told reporters, "We have blood on clothing — substantial, we also have bleach, what appears to be bleach, on that clothing as well in order to cover up the blood. There is blood splatter in the apartment as well. Not a lot, but there is some. It’s quite noticeable, it’s visible."
The suspects are being held on $3 million bond or $300,000 bail. Rackover, who was previously thought to be the son of celebrity jeweler Jeffrey Rackover, actually only took the last name after meeting the jeweler. Jeffrey Rackover's spokesman Bo Dietl explained, "[Jeffrey] loved him and wanted to take care of him." According to the Post, "The pair met 3¹/₂ years ago at a health club, and Jeffrey Rackover took him in, setting him up with the apartment and helping him get a job at the Willis Towers Watson insurance company."
Jeffrey Rackover lives in another apartment in the same building, and Dietl said he would refer to James as his son. Dietl told NBC New York, "You know how you fall in love with a puppy dog? He fell in love with this kid. He just wanted to help him. He was here for this kid and now poor Jeffrey is caught in the middle."
The Daily Mail reports, "Neighbors in the swanky building... said they assumed the younger Rackover was Jeffrey's gay lover. 'I have seen them working out together in the gym and there is no way they were father and son,' one told the DailyMail.com. 'Another friend saw them at a wedding and that was definitely not an appropriate father son relationship.'"
In an interview with the Daily News, Dietl said, "You can’t talk to [Jeffrey] — he starts to cry. You know the old expression: No good deed goes unpunished. This is the perfect frigging example."
James Rackover, previously known has James Beaudoin, has a lengthy arrest record in Florida, including for armed robbery and burglary. His aunt told the NY Times that there was no way her nephew was a murderer: "I love him. He’s not the type of person that could do this."
The NYPD is still determining the motive. Joey Comunale's father said, "Joey wasn’t a partier. He didn’t go down to the city, you know, to be a partier. Had a lot of friends with him that night and unfortunately, they separated and he met up with the wrong guys... I think you can see by what happened to him, these were horrible people."