NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A mysterious crime now spans three states, after a body believed to be that of a Connecticut man who vanished form a party in Manhattan was found buried in a shallow grave on the Jersey Shore.
As CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported, what happened between those points remains a mystery. Sources said they believe Joseph Comunale, 26, was stabbed to death inside a Midtown East building where he was attending a party.
A cooperating witness led police to what is believed to be Comunale’s body on the Jersey Shore, sources said. There was no official identification of the body late Wednesday, but police gave every indication to the family and to the news media that it was that of Comunale.
The heartbreaking discovery for loved ones came in Oceanport, New Jersey, where police found Comunale’s body in a shallow grave in a wooded area behind a flower shop.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, sources said cadaver dogs found the body without much difficulty, buried under two fee of dirt.
The shallow grave will not be Comunale’s final resting place. His grieving family is planning a proper funeral.
“He touched everybody. Everybody who came in contact with him loved him,” said the victim’s father, Pat Comunale. “He was one of a kind.”
On Tuesday, Comunale, of Stamford, was the subject of a missing persons case. On Wednesday, he was the subject of a homicide investigation spanning the entire Tri-State Area.
Devastated friends and family members asked for privacy at Comunale’s home in Stamford on Wednesday.
“It’s shocking. It’s really upsetting,” said Spencer Davidson, who played hockey with Comunale at Hofstra University.
Comunale originally left his home in Stamford on Saturday night for the city.
Police said Comunale was at a club in Greenwich Village when he decided to join some people he had just met. Sources said he went to a party with them inside a fourth-floor apartment at the Grand Sutton building near the corner of East 59th Street and First Avenue early Sunday morning.
At some point, something went terribly wrong.
Comunale’s father reported him missing when he never came home. Meantime, sources said the NYPD had received a 911 call about a man dragging a suspicious trash bag out of the East Side building.
The man, a resident of the building, had been seen stuffing bags into his car after partygoers left, CBS2’s Magdalena Doris reported.
K-9 dogs found pants and sheets covered in human blood inside, and the luggage cart used to carry the bags from the apartment to the car is now among the several pieces of evidence collected in the investigation, Doris reported.
That same resident also reportedly asked the doorman about how long video surveillance is kept by management, Doris reported.
The news was unsettling for people in the neighborhood.
“It’s a very, very normal building and very, very nice people in general that live there, so I’ve never heard of any issues of this kind,” resident Oliver Garnier.
“Obviously the authorities are here. I’m sure they’re doing everything they can to figure out what happened,” resident Adam Barrick told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
“Between DNA and cameras, it’s only a matter of time before they catch somebody,” said neighbor David Asseo.
And then later Wednesday, police found the body.
Those who know Comunale said he comes from a close-knit family. Davidson said his father would come to most of his games.
“A great hockey player, but more importantly, a great person,” Davidson said.
The man who was stuffing the bags into the car was immediately taken in for questioning, but let go when he refused to speak. But the evidence collected on scene was enough for police to warrant a search inside the home and car of the person of interest, who was placed back in police custody on an unrelated charge.
“We believe he is a suspect in this homicide,” Boyce said. “Right now, we’re taking statements from other people, collecting a lot of evidence as we go around the city; speaking to different people who were there that night in the club; who were in the apartment.”
Late Wednesday, Comunale’s family was crestfallen and appalled.
“He was loved by everybody. He had hundreds of friends,” Pat Comunale said. “He didn’t deserve this.”
Evidence search teams were expected to return to the East 59th Street building to resume their hunt for evidence on Thursday. It remained unknown late Wednesday what led to the gruesome violence on what was supposed to be a night of fun.
Police were still questioning the person they apprehended at the 13th Precinct in Gramercy Park late Wednesday night, CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported.