James Rackover found guilty in grisly slaying of man in East Side apartment

Shayna Jacobs

The surrogate son of a wealthy diamond dealer is guilty of murdering a Connecticut man and burying his body in a shallow grave.

James Rackover, 27, was convicted of beating and stabbing Joseph Comunale inside an E. 59th St. apartment on Nov. 13, 2016.

Rackover dumped the 26-year-old’s battered body in a ditch in New Jersey where he soaked it in gasoline and lit it on fire, evidence showed.

Comunale’s heartbroken parents, relatives and friends, who attended the trial, broke out into tears and cheered as the verdict was read.

Rackover, who showed little emotion throughout the two week trial, wore the same expression as his fate was announced.

The defense argued that Rackover's close friend Lawrence (Larry) Dilione was the killer.

Dilione and a third suspect, Max Gemma, 30, met Comunale at a Chelsea nightclub.

He was part of a group of men and women who retreated to Rackover’s apartment for an after party.

By the time Comunale was murdered, they only people still around were Rackover, Dilione and Gemma, trial evidence showed.

The suspects have pointed fingers at each other since the beginning.

Dilione, in his statements to police and at a pre-trial hearing, insisted Rackover ended Comunale’s life.

He admitted knocking Comunale out cold — after a fought over cigarettes — but said Rackover lost it, pummeled the life out of Comunale and stabbed him.

Gemma is charged with misleading investigators and assisting in the clean-up effort.

Rackover said he helped get rid of Comunale’s corpse, but that’s all.

Prosecutors said at trial that the division of labor theory was bogus.

“All of the evidence supports the conclusion that they did everything together,” Assistant District Attorney Antoinette Carter argued in her summation Thursday.

The DA’s key witness was the 24-year-old son of FOX 5 morning news anchor Rosanna Scotto, who says Rackover confessed the killing to him.

Louis Ruggiero testified that Rackover tracked him down at an East Side gym and anxiously spilled his sordid secret.

“I didn’t want a dead body in (my) living room so I slit his throat and I stabbed him,” Ruggerio explained.

“We wrapped him up in comforters and threw his body out the window,” Rackover allegedly told Ruggiero, his close friend.

The pair met through Scotto, 60, who is good friends with celebrity jeweler Jeffrey Rackover, 28, who financed the younger Rackover’s high-flying lifestyle.

Prosecutors argued the Rackovers were companions “masquerading” publicly as father and son. James Rackover took his last name as an adult to further the con, authorities said.

Lawyers for Rackover tried to poke holes in Ruggiero’s story, noting inconsistencies between his earlier grand jury testimony and what he said on the stand this week.