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N.J. man pleads guilty to role in Comunale murder

January 8, 2019

STAMFORD — A New Jersey man pleaded guilty on Tuesday for his involvement in the death of a 26-year-old Stamford native in 2016.

Lawrence “Larry” Dilione, one of two men charged with the murder of Joey Comunale — a popular Westhill High School graduate — is expected to face a sentence of 23 years in prison.

Another man, James Rackover, was found guilty of murder in the second degree last month, and was sentenced to 28 years to life in prison.

On Tuesday, Dilione entered the surprise guilty plea in New York State Supreme Court to one count of first-degree manslaughter. He is expected to be sentenced on Feb. 6.

“This is another major step forward on the road toward justice for Joey Comunale,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. “I thank our prosecutors for ensuring not only that this defendant will serve significant prison time for his role in this unconscionable crime, but also for sparing the Comunale family the agony of reliving their son’s death in yet another murder trial.”

After extensive negotiations with prosecutors, Dilione struck a deal for manslaughter, allowing him to avoid a life sentence.

“After giving much thought to his role in the incident that resulted in the senseless death of Joey Comunale, Larry voluntarily accepted responsibility by entering a guilty plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter,” Michael J. Pappa, attorney for Dilione, said in an emailed statement. “Larry has a deep sense of remorse for setting in motion the subsequent acts by James Rackover that caused the death. His plea today will spare the Comunale family the pain of having to endure another trial.”

The Comunale family attorney, Robert Abrams, said the family was pleased with the result.

“There’s two down, and one more to go,” Abrams said, referring to the upcoming trial of Max Gemma, the third man in the apartment where Comunale was killed, according to police. Gemma was charged with hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence. He is expected to go to trial next month.

“We accept it as an appropriate sentence,” Abrams said of the Dilione deal. “It’s very important for the family for Dilione to acknowledge that he participated in concert with Rackover in the murder.”

Joey Comunale had just met Dilione outside a New York nightclub and accompanied him and five others to Rackover’s apartment on Nov. 13, 2016.

While inside the apartment, Dilione and Rackover allegedly beat, stabbed and attempted to dismember Comunale, then threw his body out of a 30-foot-high window. Police said they then drove 60 miles to Oceanport, N.J., where they buried the body in a shallow grave.

Rackover, an ex-con from Florida, was also found guilty of concealment of a human corpse and hindering prosecution.

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