The father of a murder victim in a high-profile case has been brought to tears in court during the latest proceedings.
Pat Comunale, the father of 26-year-old murder victim Joseph Comunale, covered his face during a pre-trial hearing on Thursday in New York City, as a witness gave testimony.
Suspects James Rackover, 26, and Lawrence ‘Larry’ Dilione, 29, are charged with killing Comunale during a party at a luxury Upper East Side apartment in November 2016, after an argument over a cigarette got out of hand.
Former Oceanport, New Jersey mayor Gordon Gemma took the stand on Thursday, when he was quizzed by prosecutors about his son Max’s statement that Rackover ‘smashed (Comunale’s) head on the floor’ – an exchange that brought the victim’s father to tears, according to the New York Daily News.
Pat Comunale, the father of 26-year-old murder victim Joseph Comunale, covered his face during a pre-trial hearing on Thursday. He is seen left at the funeral in 2016
Lawrence Dilione, 29, (left) revealed where police could find Joseph Comunale’s body (right) after a heart-wrenching phone call with the Hofstra graduate’s devastated father
Former Oceanport, New Jersey mayor Gordon Gemma (pictured) testified on Thursday. His son Max is accused of assisting in the cover-up and misleading investigators
Gordon Gemma is seen with his son Max outside court on Thursday. Max, 30, has been charged with with assisting in the cover-up and misleading investigators
Max Gemma, 30, has been charged with with assisting in the cover-up and misleading investigators.
He is pals with Rackover and Dilione, who are accused of killing Comunale on November 16, 2016.
Prosecutors say that Comunale was stabbed 15 times at the alcohol and cocaine-fueled party inside Rackover’s luxury apartment, paid for by famed jeweler Jeffrey Rackover, after an argument over cigarettes.
Three days later police found the Hofstra graduate’s burned body buried in a shallow grave in Oceanport, New Jersey, where Dilione lived.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Comunale’s body was discovered only after Dilione had a heart-wrenching phone conversation with the victim’s father, Pat.
It was NYPD homicide detective Raymond Reuther who came up with the idea to put Dilione on the phone with Comunale’s father.
Reuther, now retired, recalled hearing Dilione begin to cry as he spoke to Pat and told him ‘everything will be alright’, according to the New York Daily News.
Dilione and James Rackover, 26, (pictured behind him) are accused of killing Comunale during a party at a luxury Upper East Side apartment in November 2016
‘I started asking him if Joey was in New Jersey, and did they take him there,’ Reuther said.
The detective believed, due to video surveillance footage, that the pair may have buried the body near Dilione’s father’s house in Oceanport.
‘[Dilione] just started looking at me, and then he said, “He’s not far from my father’s house”‘, Reuther recalled.
The detective said Dilione then revealed that Comunale’s body was ‘behind the florist’.
It’s a shocking story that Michael Pappa, Dilione’s lawyer, is fighting to keep out of the courtroom – and away from a jury.
Pappa is hoping Justice James Burke will rule the confession inadmissible due to the fact that Dilione had not yet been read his rights before the fateful phone call.
Burke must decide if the both the statement and corresponding crime scene evidence, including the discovery of Comunale’s body, will be included in the murder trial.
Dilione and Rackover have been charged with murder, concealment of a human body, hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence.
Both have pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
It was NYPD homicide detective Raymond Reuther who came up with the idea to put Dilione (pictured together) on the phone with Comunale’s father
The detective said Dilione then revealed that Comunale’s body was ‘behind the florist’
Dilione and Rackover have been charged with murder, concealment of a human body, hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence
It’s a shocking story that Michael Pappa, Dilione’s lawyer, is fighting to keep out of the courtroom due to the fact that Dilione had not been read his rights before the confession
Dilione reportedly told police he struck Comunale, 26, inside Rackover’s apartment on East 59th Street on the night of November 13, 2016 after a fight about cigarettes.
But he claimed it was Rackover who pummeled, choked, and ultimately stabbed the victim to death.
Court documents filed by co-defendant Max Gemma’s attorney, Mark Bederow, allege that Rackover flew into a rage at the party during the fistfight between Comunale and Dilione.
He ‘punched and kicked (the victim) in the head and face several times, and smashed the back of his head into the hardwood floor several times,’ the June 2017 filings state.
‘Rackover’s attack left Comunale bleeding profusely and created a bloody mess in the living room floor.’
‘Rackover panicked about returning to prison. He ordered Gemma and Dilione to take off their clothes.’
He then allegedly wrapped Dilione’s jeans around the victim’s neck ‘as if he were preparing to choke Comunale’, according to the court filings.
Gemma was told to leave the apartment, his lawyer said in the documents.
Dilione has claimed it was Rackover (pictured) who pummeled, choked, and ultimately stabbed Comunale to death
Dilione and Rackover then allegedly cleaned the apartment with bleach and removed Comunale’s body with a luggage cart they took from the luxury building.
Police found bloody towels and Comunale’s driver’s license in trash cans at the building, according to the New York Daily News.
Surveillance footage also caught Rackover leaving the building with three duffel bags and a backpack that he put in the drunk of a black Mercedes-Benz car.
Rackover lived in the building with his ‘adoptive’ father Jeffrey Rackover.
The famed jeweler has designed baubles for the likes of Jennifer Lopez and was responsible for Melania Trump’s $3million engagement ring.
Jeffrey Rackover has since distanced himself from his ‘adoptive’ son, but was named in a lawsuit filed in June 2017 alleging he helped to cover up the murder.
Pat Comunale claimed Jeffrey provided cleaning supplies to Rackover and alleged that the pair were in a sexual relationship.
The lawsuit also alleged that Jeffrey let Rackover borrow his Mercedes-Benz to dispose of the victim’s dismembered remains on the Jersey Shore.