NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Soon a jury will have to decide just who delivered the killing blow to 26-year-old Joseph Comunale of Connecticut back in 2016 after a night of partying in Manhattan.
James Rackover and two New Jersey men were charged in the death of Comunale, whose body was found in Oceanport, N.J., buried in a shallow grave within a wooded area behind a flower shop.
In Rackover’s trial begun two weeks ago, the defense argues that Larry Dilllione killed Comunale, and Rackover just helped cover it up and conceal the corpse.
Prosecutors argues Dillione and Rackover both murdered Comunale and together made the decision to cover it up.
Rackover is charged with murder, hindering prosecution, tampering with physical evidence and concealment of a corpse in the case. The 25-year-old has a criminal history in Florida, including burglary and drug charges.
Dillione has also been charged with murder and will be tried in early 2019.
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.
Prosecutors in Rackover’s trial says medical evidence shows Comunale’s wounds were consistent with being beaten by two people, and consistent with being stabbed from both sides.
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.
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 was among several pieces of evidence collected in the investigation.
After he was dead, they said the men tried to dismember Comunale’s body in a bathtub before tossing his remains out the window of Rackover’s high-rise apartment. They said Rackover and Dilione then drove the body to Oceanport where they burned it and left it in a shallow grave.
Prosecutors said EZPass and license plate readers traced Rackover’s car heading to New Jersey the night Comunale went missing.
Comunale’s father, Patrick Comunale, also filed a lawsuit alleging Rackover’s surrogate father, Jeff Rackover, helped cover up the crime.