Man sentenced in brutal stabbing death of partygoer at UES apartment

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NEW YORK — A man who stabbed a Connecticut man to death at a party inside a Manhattan luxury apartment building then buried his body in a shallow grave was sentenced Wednesday.

He killed a guest after partying with him in his luxury apartment, in Manhattan’s high-end Sutton Place neighborhood.

On Wednesday, a judge gave convicted murderer James Rackover the maximum sentence for the bloody and brutal crime, leaving the victim’s family saying that it sends a strong message, as two other suspects in the killing and its coverup prepare to head to court in the case early next year.

The victim, Joseph Comunale, was 26 years old in November of 2016, when he had partied with Rackover, 25, in Rackover's East Side luxury apartment.

After an early morning session of drinking and doing drugs, a fight broke out for still-unknown reasons, and Rackover and his friend, Larry Dilione, ended up stabbing Comunale 15 times, according to prosecutors.

Last month, the district attorney's office won a conviction against Rackover for the murder, as well as for him trying to dismember Comunale's body, then wrapping and bagging the body in plastic, throwing it out the fourth floor window, and driving the corpse to the Jersey Shore.

There, jurors concluded, Rackover burned and buried the body, then lied about the crimes to police, even though evidence including Comunale's blood, his bloody clothes, EZPass and cellphone records pointed heavily to Rackover and Dilione.

The judge sentenced Rackover to 25 years to life for second-degree murder, two and 1/3 to seven years for hindering an investigation, and one and 1/3 years for concealing a corps.

The sentences, through a combination of them being served consecutively and concurrently, add up to 28 and 2/3 years to life in prison.

"I'm just glad for the outcome," said Lisa Comunale, Joseph's mother, outside of court, after the sentence was made. "I hope he never sees the light of day," she said.

"No other family should go through what we went through," her husband and Joseph's father, Pat Comunale, added.

Alleged accomplice Dilione will go to trial for murder early next year, while his friend Max Gemma, who'd also partied with Rackover on the night of the killing, will also go on trial in the new year. Gemma is accused of trying to help to conceal the body and other evidence.

Today's sentence makes the upcoming trials bearable, the victim's family said.

"My son was a hockey player," said Pat Comunale, the victim's father, "and this is only the first period, as I think we all know. I think we had an incredible first period."

"I think it sends a message to the other two defendants," Comunale continued. "We'll be back here in January, unfortunately, and we'll win the second period, and the third period as well."

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