James Rackover mugshot.

Broward County Police

Trial to begin for Upper East Side man accused in booze, drug filled murder

October 15, 2018 - 10:16 am
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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- A 27-year-old man is going on trial in a case that made headlines two years ago.

James Rackover is accused of killing Joseph Comunale.

Rackover lived in a fourth floor apartment in the Grand Sutton on East 59th Street.

He took the name of a well-known 'jeweler to the stars' Jeffrey Rackover -- their relationship is unclear. The Daily News reports, that a civil suit by Comunale's family claims Jeffrey and James were lovers.

Prosecutors say Rackover beat and stabbed Comunale after a party filled with drugs and booze.

A second suspect, Lawrence Dilione, has admitted he helped dispose of the body, but denies any part in the killing.

"I turned around and then I saw a knife being pulled out of Joey's head," Dilione said at a pretrial hearing.

Dilione said Rackover tried to cut Comunale into pieces inside a bathtub, but struggled and started stabbing his body.

"That's when he got angry and stabbed him in the body multiple times," he said.

Rackover denied killing Comunale during a jailhouse interview with the Daily News in May 2017, and said Dilione had thrown him under a bus.

"What motive would I have? Does it make sense to you?" he asked.

Cops say Rackover fessed up to an undercover cop placed in his cell on the night he was arrested. Prosecutors say they won't introduce those comments at trial because they were taken after Rackover had lawyered up, the Daily News reports.

Dilione will be tried separately.

Comunale's body was found burned in a wooded area in Oceanport, New Jersey.

A third man, 30-year-old Max Gemma, was allegedly in the apartment at the time, but was not involved. Prosecutors say he was involved in the cleanup, which he has denied.

Jury selection is set to begin Monday.