Five days after a New York City teacher went missing, police believe they have found her body “burned beyond recognition” inside a storage facility in Staten Island, a senior NYPD official told The Daily Beast on Thursday.
Jeanine Cammarata, a 37-year-old mother of three, was last seen around 9 p.m. Saturday leaving her boyfriend’s house to pick up two of her children from her estranged husband, Michael Cammarata. The first-grade teacher was reported missing on Tuesday after she failed to show up to Staten Island’s P.S. 29, her part-time job at a Dollar Tree, and a Monday court hearing in her divorce case against Michael Cammarata, authorities said.
After a multi-county search, police arrived at the Extra Space Store in Village Greens, Staten Island, on Thursday morning and found a body “charred beyond visual confirmation.” A senior law-enforcement official said that it’s “very likely” the body belongs to Jeanine Cammarata.
“The investigation is ongoing but we can confirm we received a body relating to this case this morning,” a Medical Examiner’s Office spokesperson told The Daily Beast, adding that since the body is hard to identity, the official determination on its identity may take several weeks. “Usually in hard cases, we need dental records for 100 percent accuracy.”
Police are now investigating whether Cammarata was murdered, and her estranged husband is considered “the primary suspect,” NYPD Assistant Chief William Aubry said in a press conference Thursday.
Michael Cammarata, 42, was taken into police custody on Tuesday night and charged with felony counts of stalking and assault after he admitted to striking Jeanine the day before she disappeared, a law-enforcement source said.
Surveillance video obtained by police shows Michael Cammarata leaving his Far Rockaway, Queens, apartment with a bag Saturday evening, according to WLNY. A short time later, video at the Staten Island storage facility shows a man entering with appears to be the same bag, police said.
“With the discovery of these human remains, the investigation has taken a turn into a murder investigation,” Aubry said. “We are working with the Staten Island district attorney to establish probable cause and to charge him with murder.”
The Staten Island District Attorney’s office did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, and the father-of-two has not been charged in relation to his wife’s disappearance. Police, however, said they have “recovered” his 2016 Gray Chrysler Town and Country and that he remained in police custody on Thursday.
Jeanine Cammarata’s attorney, Eric Gansberg, confirmed that Jeanine had served divorce papers to her estranged husband in February. The couple has been separated for about “two years,” he said.
“I believe he probably beat her, because she was afraid of him. She was so terrified of him,” Gansberg said, adding that the pair were in an ongoing child custody battle for their 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son. Cammarata’s third child is from her first husband.
The Cammaratas had a tumultuous relationship and ultimately split over “infidelity in the marriage,” the senior NYPD official told The Daily Beast. Gansburg said the decision to live apart came after “several prior domestic incident reports” and the couple had a visitation agreement that allowed the 37-year-old mother to visit her children in Queens, where her husband, who had primary custody, had relocated.
“Her husband started to get dictatorial about when she could see the children and she wanted to take action,” Gansberg said.
After her boyfriend reported her missing on Tuesday, “investigators interviewed Michael Cammarata [who] admitted he was with Jeanine on Sunday,” the senior law-enforcement official said. Cammarata admitted to “having sex with her” and later “to striking her,” the official said.
The next morning, “there was a suspicious message that one of Jeanine’s friend received from [Jeanine’s] Facebook messenger stating that she needed a break from everything,” the official said. “This is very out of the norm for Jeanine to send a message like this because she never uses that social media app.”
It was not immediately known whether Michael Cammarata has an attorney.