2 arraigned in connection with Manhattan murder of missing Stamford man

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Saturday, November 19, 2016
2 arraigned overnight in death of Conn. man
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Two men were arraigned overnight in connection with the death of a Connecticut man.

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Two men have been arraigned in connection with the death of a Connecticut man who attended a party at an Upper East Side apartment building.

James Rackover, 25, and Lawrence Dilione, 28, of Oceanport, were arraigned overnight on charges of hindering prosecution, tampering with evidence and concealment of a corpse in the fatal stabbing of 26-year-old Joseph "Joey" Comunale, of Stamford.

Rackover, of Manhattan, also was arraigned on the charge of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

Prosecutors said in court that "one or both of these people committed a murder." Prosecutors said the investigation continues.

Bail for both men was set at $3 million bond or $300,000 cash.

"I tried to make a complete statement in the courtroom. We were fortunate to have the judge set bail in the case. That is only the beginning for us. I look forward to what our review of the evidence will reveal," said Rackover's attorney Maurice Sercasz.

Authorities said Comunale traveled to Manhattan Nov. 12, and went out to the Gilded Lily nightclub in Chelsea. There, he met Rackover and Dilione for the first time.

At some point in the night, Comunale went with the two men and three women to a party at Rackover's fourth floor apartment at The Grand Sutton at 418 E. 59th St., located between First Avenue and Sutton Place near the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. Police said it's at the apartment where an argument broke out, and Comunale was stabbed 15 times in the chest.

According to NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, Comunale's body was taken at some point to Oceanport, New Jersey, where it was buried in a grave about 1-foot deep. There appeared to be some effort to burn the body, as there was gasoline found in the shallow grave.

Comunale's father reported his son missing Monday because he had not heard from him. Police went to the place where Comunale was last seen -- the Upper East Side apartment. That's where police found evidence of foul play, recovering about 32 pieces of evidence.

Police said the burial site in Monmouth County is where Dilione is from and believed to work in construction. That scene wouldn't be discovered until Wednesday, when one of the two suspects apparently pointed detectives to that location -- more than 60 miles from the Manhattan apartment was last scene.

The motive of the killing is under investigation. The medical examiner in Monmouth County, New Jersey, is still working to positively identify the body found in the wooded area.