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Man Who Went Missing After Night of Clubbing Found in NJ Grave: Sources

By Murray Weiss | November 16, 2016 4:09pm | Updated on November 17, 2016 10:01am
 Joseph Comunale
Joseph Comunale
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MANHATTAN — The body of a 26-year-old Connecticut man who was killed after partying inside a swank Upper East Side apartment has been found in a shallow grave in New Jersey and two men were being questioned by police in connection to the case, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The duo were being held on “charges unrelated to” the murder of Joseph Comunale after Comunale's body was found Wednesday afternoon in a wooded-area behind a flower shop on Monmouth Boulevard in Oceanport, New Jersey.

One suspect was identified James Rackover, 22, whose father, Jeffrey, is a nationally known jeweler serving the well-to-do and celebrities across the country, from Jennifer Lopez to President-elect Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, who are longtime friends and clients.

The identity of the other suspect, who lives in New Jersey, was not disclosed by the sources.

Comunale, of Stamford, attended Hofstra University and worked as a sales associate for a security products company.

He came to the city Saturday night to party with a group of men and women, according to sources.

The group of revelers hit a few clubs on the Upper West Side before heading over to the younger Rackover's fourth-floor apartment inside Grand Sutton on East 59th Street between First Avenue and the East River. His father also lives in the building.

When Comunale failed to return home, his parents reported him missing on Monday.

At the building, NYPD detectives were told that, hours after the women left early Sunday morning, the front desk was called with a request for a luggage cart, which was used to wheel out two large suitcases, sources said. Blood was found on the cart, according to sources who added that investigators obtained building surveillance footage.

Police brought in their dogs, which quickly discovered a garbage bag near the building containing a bloody sheet and a pair of pants authorities believe are Comunale’s.

Investigators brought the two suspects to the local police precinct, but they declined to answer questions and immediately asked for their lawyers.

Detectives also executed search warrants in Rackover's apartment, which his father pays for, carrying out bags of potential evidence.

“There was a lot of blood,” a law enforcement official told “On the Inside.” "And not sophisticated way of cleaning it up."

Sources said the elder Rackover's Mercedes was allegedly used to transport the body to New Jersey, and the police found blood inside it after it was seized.

The detectives also retrieved video of the car passing through the Lincoln Tunnel on Sunday.

Meanwhile, investigators fanned out early Tuesday into New Jersey to question several people who had partied with Comunale that night.

They eventually learned where Comunale’s stabbed body could be found, sources say.

Investigators had yet to determine a motive for the killing, or find the knife that is believed to be the murder weapon, the sources added.

The young Rackover, who has a minor criminal record for DWI and petty larceny, was being held on a charge of driving with a suspended license, sources say.

His father, meanwhile, is a self-made millionaire whose billboards advertising his gems frequently grace the approach to the Midtown Tunnel.

A few years ago, Jeffrey Rackover informed family and friends that he found out he had a son when James showed up in New York with stunning news that he was his offspring.

The successful jeweler, a lifelong bachelor, told family and friends that he had a brief affair two decades earlier with a woman who lived in Florida whom he did not know was married at the time.

When she become pregnant, she apparently informed her husband that James was their son, and kept the real identity of his father a secret.

But after the couple divorced, and James' mother remarried, she eventually told her son the truth.

He moved to New York and confronted the elder Rackover with the news. The jeweler decided to embrace his son, and offer him a lifestyle that included traveling first-class, driving luxury cars, hanging out with an affluent crowd, summers in the Hamptons and watching football games in the owner's sky boxes.

The gem dealer said he hoped his son's move into a universe of well-heeled New Yorkers would also influence him to control his wayward streak.

"Jeffrey really put up with a lot," a close friend told "On the Inside" on Tuesday. "He did everything for him, everything money could buy."

Early Thursday morning, the police were still trying to unravel the murder mystery. Sources said arrests were expected to be announced later in the afternoon.