NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — James Rackover, 25, of Manhattan, and Lawrence Dilione, 28, of Jersey City, were charged Thursday with concealment of a human corpse, hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence in the murder of Joseph Comunale. NYPD detectives believe the 26-year-old Stamford man was killed inside a Midtown East apartment and dumped in New Jersey.
As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, Rackover was walked out of the 13th Precinct police station, at 230 E. 21st St. in Gramercy Park, late Thursday afternoon. He had his head down and was in handcuffs, and said nothing to reporters.
The defendant – a close associate of celebrity jeweler Jeffrey Rackover – appeared in a dark suit as he was led out, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.
There was also no comment from Dilione as he was walked out of the police station a few hours later, CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported.
Both suspects were set to go before a judge late Thursday night, CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported.
Comunale was last seen alive at Rackover’s East 59th Street apartment, where Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said they recovered about 32 pieces of evidence.
Police said Comunale was stabbed 15 times in the chest area.
Police also collected numerous other pieces of evidence that seemed to point to an effort to cover up the crime, Boyce said.
“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, so we’re still up at that location. We’ve been up for the last couple of days, ” Boyce said. “There is blood splatter in the apartment as well — not a lot, but there is some. It’s quite noticeable, it’s visible.”
Comunale’s body also had a broken pelvis, and police suspect he might have been thrown out of an apartment window.
On Wednesday morning, police were led to a witness by Comunale’s body, which was buried in a shallow grave about one foot deep in Oceanport, Monmouth County.
“There’s a lot of weeds there nearby. We have to cut down some of those weeds to see if there’s any other evidence at that location,” Boyce said. “So we expect to be up there for the next couple of days.”
Comunale was last seen entering the Grand Sutton building, 418 E. 59th St. on Sunday morning with three men and three women he had just met that night, according to Boyce. He had left a club in the Village with the people to continue the party at the building, CBS2’s Magdalena Doris reported.
Comunale’s father reported him missing when he never came home. Meantime, sources said the NYPD had received a 911 call about a man – now suspected to have been Rackover – dragging a suspicious bag out of the East Side building.
Police checked surveillance video from the building and found that someone took out two suitcases on a luggage cart, Juliet Papa reported.
Boyce said the victim’s bloodied clothing, sheets and towels were found in plastic bags that had been thrown down the building’s garbage chute.
“We uncovered a substantial amount of blood evidence inside that building, inside the garbage bags and through the garbage chute,” said Boyce.
There was also reportedly blood found on the luggage carrier, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.
Comunale had been stabbed 15 times in the chest and his body was found partially burned in a shallow grave in Oceanport, Papa reported. Gasoline was also found at the scene.
Comunale’s family is distraught.
“It’s horrific that another person can do this to an individual, and take a guy who was the most charismatic, funny guy – always the life of the party — never did steroids or anything else,” his father, Pat Comunale, said late Thursday. “And his friends can all attest to the type of individual he was.”
Pat Comunale said his son ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Joey wasn’t a partier, and he didn’t go down to the city, you know, to be a partier,” Pat Comunale said. “He had a lot of friends with him that night and unfortunately they separated and he met up with the wrong guys.”
Rackover and Dilione are charged with second-degree murder, concealment of a human corpse, and tampering with physical evidence. Dilione faces an additional charge of hindering prosecution.
Sources said Rackover also used an alias in Florida and has been arrested there before on burglary and drug charges.
At Dilione’s high-rise building in Jersey City, residents were shocked to learn their neighbor was an accused murderer.
“It’s absolutely disturbing,” said Matt Dinks. “You never know what people are capable of.”
A motive for the killing is unclear.
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