Two men — one linked to a Manhattan celebrity jeweler — have been charged with killing a 26-year-old Hofstra University graduate missing since Saturday, the NYPD said Thursday.
Charged with second-degree murder are James Rackover, 25, of Manhattan and Lawrence Dilion, 28, of Jersey City, police said. They were awaiting arraignment Thursday night in Manhattan Criminal Court.
The pair are accused of killing Joseph Comunale, a Stamford, Connecticut, man last seen alive Saturday night when he attended a party at The Grand Sutton, a luxury high rise on East 59th Street near midtown.
Early Wednesday, NYPD investigators found Comunale’s body, riddled with stab wounds, in a shallow grave in Oceanport, New Jersey, police said.
Rackover and Dillion are also charged with concealment of a corpse and tampering with evidence, police said.
Comunale had been stabbed 15 times and other evidence showed an attempt was made to set his body on fire, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said.
Police initially said Thursday that Rackover was the son of jeweler Jeffrey Rackover, 56, who provides high-end gemsstones to many celebrities. Later, Boyce said the relationship between the two men was still unclear and police have no proof the two are related.
Celebrity private investigator Beau Dietl, a spokesman for Jeffrey Rackover, said his client befriended James Rackover in a city health club and tried to help him because of legal problems the younger man had in Florida, where he was known as James Beaudoin.
“Jeffrey took a liking to him,” Dietl said, noting that the elder Rackover once said “you know Beau, this is my son.”
Dietl said Rackover paid for the young man’s apartment in the The Grand Sutton, located at 418 East 59th St., and helped him get a job in the insurance industry. However, there was no blood relationship between the two, Dietl said.
James Rackover and Dillion are believed by police to have been at the high rise at the time Comunale was there.
Boyce said after police discovered blood spattered in the apartment building and bloody clothing in the vicinity, the missing person’s case became a criminal investigation.
A law enforcement official who didn’t want to be named said investigators are looking at the possibility that Comunale’s body may have been thrown from the building into a rear area to avoid detection by surveillance cameras as it was removed.
A resident of the building provided information that led NYPD detectives 60 miles south to Oceanport, where they found Comunale’s body, officials said.
Boyce said a motive for the killing remained unclear late Thursday. Dietl said Jeffrey Rackover was distraught over the death of Comunale and arrest of his close friend.
“I just can’t believe it,” Rackover said, according to Dietl. “I did something nice and this happens.”
A police official said that sorting out the relationship between the Rackovers was of secondary concern in the homicide investigation.
“We will get it eventually,” said one NYPD official.