Victim’s father calls son’s murder ‘a crime against humanity’
Pat Comunale speaks out after one of accused killers is convicted
NEW YORK — The anguish of the last two years is written all over Pat Comunale’s face.
The sleepless nights and days of crying have taken a toll on Comunale, who has retired since his son was killed in 2016.
Emotions ran high for Comunale again on Friday when one of his son’s accused killers was convicted of all charges in Manhattan Supreme Court.
James Rackover faces 25 years to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of murder, hindering prosecution, and concealment of a human corpse.
Rackover and Lawrence Dilione have been accused of beating, dismembering, burning and dumping the body of Joey Comunale after a night of partying in November 2016. A third man, Max Gemma, has been accused of helping clean up the crime at Rackover’s Sutton Place apartment.
Pat Comunale described the incident as not just a murder, but a savage attack.
“An animal attacks a human, he gets euthanized without the fancy attorneys, without his day in court,” Comunale said, fighting back tears as he awaited the verdict on Friday. “These are three animals. Euthanizing them is probably what they need. There’s no reason that they should be mingling in a free society.”
While Rackover’s attorney, Maurice Sercarz, blamed Dilione for the murder, Pat Comunale said it was clear to him who killed his son.
“If you sat in the court for the last two weeks, I think the evidence is overwhelming,” he said of Rackover’s guilt.
‘Crime against humanity’
Dilione, who faces the same charges as Rackover, will go to trial next followed by Gemma, who has been charged with hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence.
Pat Comunale said all three should be equally held accountable.
“This wasn’t murder. This really was a crime against humanity,” Pat Comunale said. “For that, all three, and I repeat, all three, need to go away for a very long time.”
Comunale refuted the story that his son’s murder stemmed from a drug- fueled argument over cigarettes.
Comunale believes the altercation was over one of the women partying at Rackover’s apartment. Joey Comunale’s blood-alcohol level well over the legal limit, but the 26-year-old only had trace amounts of cocaine in his system, according to the medical examiner’s testimony.
“I can come up with my own speculation about what the fight was over,” Pat Comunale said. “I certainly don’t believe it was over cigarettes.”
Robert Abrams, an attorney for the Comunale family, said there were others not charged who were involved in covering up the murder and lying to authorities.
While Abrams did not mention any names, the Comunales have filed a civil lawsuit against Rackover’s surrogate father, Jeffrey, claiming he helped cover up the crime.
“All of the people, not only the people who killed, but the people who covered it up, are going to be held accountable for everything that they did,” Pat Comunale said. “They’re just as guilty in our eyes.”
Comunale described his son, a Westhill High School and Hofstra University grad, as a “great kid” and a “typical athlete” who played hockey and baseball.
“He just had a great personality — a very outgoing kid,” Pat Comunale said. “You don’t judge a man’s wealth by his money, you judge by how many friends he has. If that’s the case, he’d be a very wealthy guy.”
Comunale said his son’s large group of friends have become a support system for the family over the last two years.
“They’re not only here today, but the last two weeks, really for the last two years,” Comunale said of those who have accompanied him to court. “(There’s) a lot of support, really from the entire community, the city of Stamford.”
Jim Bellantoni, one of Joey Comunale’s Stamford American Legion baseball coaches, was among those who attended the closing arguments on Thursday.
“He had friends from Stamford to Long Island and all over the world,” said Pat Comunale, who said his son visited Italy, Croatia and Ibiza, among other places.
Comunale said his son often went out in New York City like he did on Nov. 13, 2016. He said his son also frequented the Gilded Lily nightclub, where he met Dilione that night.
“He went out that night like any other 26, 27-yearold kid does, they go clubbing, they meet up with people,” Comunale said. “It was a very friendly night.”
Comunale became concerned the next day when he noticed his son did not set his fantasy football team.
“We used to tease him at work that if he could remember all of the stats for the football players and baseball players, why couldn’t he remember the part numbers for where he was working?” said Comunale, whose son worked for him at Tri-Ed Distribution in Elmsford, N.Y.
Fighting back tears, Comunale said his son’s life was cut short when he ran into a bad crowd.
“You’re partying with five or six other people,” he said. “Who in a million years would expect to come in contact with three psychopaths?”
Pat Comunale, father of Joseph Comunale, and one of his attorneys, Elizabeth Kase, leave the courtroom last week.