In Ninive Petrocelli's death off Montauk, cops see no criminality

The body of Ninive Petrocelli, 39, was found The body of Ninive Petrocelli, 39, was found by a boater who notified authorities early on Aug. 11, Suffolk police said. (Nov. 15, 2011) Photo Credit: Alexa Hoyer/PatrickMcMullan.com;Gordon M. Grant

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Criminal behavior is not suspected in the death of a Manhattan woman whose body was found Sunday morning floating in the waters off Montauk, where she had been boating with her husband, Suffolk police said Monday.

"There's no obvious criminality here," said Det. Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick, commander of the Suffolk police Homicide Unit. "Speaking with relatives, they characterized the relationship that this couple had as very stable."

The U.S. Coast Guard recovered the body of Ninive Petrocelli, 39, about 3 nautical miles off Montauk Point about 11:30 a.m. Sunday. A pleasure craft first discovered the body.

The Suffolk County medical examiner's office performed an autopsy on Petrocelli Monday, though final results were pending, police said.

Petrocelli, a principal at Manhattan-based Cristol Inc., an architectural glass company, and her husband, Joseph Petrocelli, 54, left the Montauk Yacht Club around sunset Saturday night, police said.

Their boat -- In the Clutch, a 1999 461/2-foot Carver Yachts vessel -- was docked at the yacht club before they set off. They eventually anchored the boat about 2 miles northeast of Montauk Point.

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The couple was on the bow of the boat when Ninive Petrocelli told her husband she was chilly and was going to the cabin to get a sweater, Fitzpatrick said.

After she was gone "for a while," Fitzpatrick said, the husband "goes to look for her, and he doesn't find her on the boat. He realizes she had to have fallen overboard."

Joseph Petrocelli, whom Fitzpatrick described as "appropriately upset," told police he threw some life jackets in the water and called the Coast Guard at 12:02 a.m. They arrived 12 minutes later.

After a nearly 12-hour search, her body was discovered floating in the water about 5 nautical miles from where she was reported missing. She was not wearing a life jacket.

Joseph Petrocelli, president and founder of Petrocelli Construction Corp. of Palisades Park, N.J., who has residences on Central Park West -- a $13-million home he purchased in 2004, according to public records -- and a New Jersey home, could not be reached for comment.

A man who answered the phone at the construction company Monday said Petrocelli was not at work and was "very upset at the moment."

The employee, who declined to give his name, said of his boss' wife, "She was an amazing woman. She was very sweet."

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