iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Two men have been charged in connection to the stabbing death of 26-year-old Joseph “Joey” Comunale.
James Rackover, 25, of Manhattan, and Lawrence Dilione, 28, of New Jersey, were arraigned in court Thursday on charges of concealment of a human corpse, tampering with physical evidence and hindering prosecution in the first degree. Rackover was also arraigned on the additional charge of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, according to the New York City Police Department.
Both men are being held on $3 million bond or $300,000 cash bail, and they are due back in court on Nov. 21.
“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,” Rackover’s attorney, Maurice Sercasz, said Thursday night.
It was not immediately clear who was representing Dilione.
Police had initially stated that the two men would be charged with second-degree murder. It is not uncommon for charges to change at the time of arraignment. Prosecutors, however, said in court Thursday that one or both of the men committed a murder.
Here’s what is known so far about Rackover and Dilione:
Records show Rackover previously lived in Florida and currently resides at the Grand Sutton, an apartment building on East 59th Street in New York City. He told police he hosted a party at his apartment Saturday night; several people attended including Dilione, some young women and a man he didn’t know. Rackover told police he doesn’t know what happened to Comunale, according to the criminal complaint obtained by ABC News.
Police said Comunale of Stamford, Connecticut, traveled to New York City to attend a party with friends at the Grand Sutton on Saturday night. When his friends left the next morning, police said, he stayed behind willingly. He was reported missing by his father Monday morning, according to authorities.
Police said Rackover was seen on surveillance footage driving a black 2015 Mercedes-Benz registered to famed New York City jeweler Jeffrey Rackover, who also lives at the Grand Sutton. Rackover told authorities Jeffrey is his father, according to the criminal complaint.
According to Jeffrey’s spokesman Bo Dietl, James Rackover is not related to the celebrity jeweler, but the two met in Florida a few years ago and developed a relationship. Dietl told ABC News that James Rackover had a criminal history and Jeffrey, who owns Jeffrey Rackover Diamonds on 5th Avenue, helped to secure the man a job and an apartment in Manhattan. Jeffrey also gave him his last name, Dietl said.
“[Jeffrey] gave the young man his name. He is not a blood relative,” Dietl told ABC News Friday. “He was a troubled young man down in Florida. [Jeffrey] helped him with a job and helped him subsidize an apartment and he was well on his way in the right direction.”
Dietl said Jeffrey was devastated by the news of Comunale’s death and “his heart goes out” to the man’s grieving family.
Police believe the black Mercedes registered to Jeffrey Rackover was used to transport Comunale’s body from New York City to Oceanport, New Jersey, where it was later found by police in a shallow grave on Wednesday. License plate reader records maintained by the New York City Police Department indicate that the vehicle traveled from the Upper East Side and through the Holland Tunnel to New Jersey at approximately 9:45 p.m. on Sunday. At about 3 a.m. the next morning, the same vehicle plate registered coming back through the Holland Tunnel and proceeded north on the FDR Drive, according to the criminal complaint.
Surveillance footage recorded some 15 minutes later showed James Rackover driving the Mercedes into a parking garage on 58th Street, police said. A police dog later examined the vehicle and alerted officers to a presence of a human cadaver or human bodily fluids in the area of the trunk and rear panels of the vehicle, according to the criminal complaint.
Police said the dog also indicated a presence of a human cadaver or bodily fluids in Rackover’s apartment. Police said blood was found splattered in various locations around the apartment, according to the criminal complaint.
Records show Dilione currently lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. Police said Dilione previously lived in Oceanport and his former residence was less than a mile away from where Comunale’s body was found, according to ABC-owned station WABC-TV.
Police say they reviewed surveillance video from the Grand Sutton, which showed Comunale entering the apartment building with others early Sunday morning, later leaving the building with Dilione and three women and shortly thereafter, at about 6:50 a.m., re-entering the building with Dilione. Comunale is next seen in an elevator with Dilione and is not seen again on surveillance footage or leaving the building, according to the criminal complaint.
Dilione allegedly told detectives that he knows Rackover and went to a party at his apartment with Comunale over the weekend. Dilione also allegedly told detectives he and Rackover took Comunale’s body to Oceanport and buried it in a vacant lot and showed authorities the location on an internet map, where the deceased individual was later discovered, according to the criminal complaint.
The Middlesex County Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy on the body, which police identified as Comunale, and determined that the cause of death was multiple stab wounds to the torso. The manner of death was ruled a homicide, police said.
The investigation into Comunale’s murder is ongoing and the motive remains unclear.
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