What to Know
- NYPD is looking into whether a charred body found at a Staten Island storage facility is that of a missing NYC teacher and mother of three
- Jeanine Cammarata, 37, was reported missing Monday night, the NYPD said; she didn't show up for work at school on Tuesday
- Her estranged husband was arrested this week on domestic-related charges; he was caught on camera near the storage facility
A body charred beyond recognition was found in a garbage bag at a storage facility on Staten Island Thursday, and police are looking into whether it could be the teacher and mother of three who has been missing for nearly a week.
A senior law enforcement official tells News 4 that several air fresheners were put next to the bag. Michael Cammarata, the estranged husband of 37-year-old Jeanine Cammarata, was captured on surveillance footage at the sprawling storage center, about a 4.5-mile drive from the missing woman's home.
The medical examiner is still working to confirm the identity of the remains, as well as a cause of death, while the NYPD continues to search the facility.
Jeanine Cammarata, a public elementary school teacher on Staten Island, hadn't been seen publicly since Saturday night at her home in the borough. Eric Gansberg, who is representing Cammarata in ongoing divorce proceedings against Michael Cammarata, tells News 4 the missing woman had been heading to her husband's Queens home to see their children the night she disappeared.
The NYPD confirmed at a briefing Thursday afternoon that Jeanine Cammarata had last been seen en route to Rockaway, Queens, from her home. Cops said they're still looking for Jeanine Cammarata's vehicle, a 2017 white Chevy Cruz.
At this point, their leading theory is that Jeanine Cammarata was killed in Queens. Her husband's current girlfriend is cooperating with police and was the one who helped lead investigators to the Staten Island storage facility, the senior law enforcement official said.
Gansberg said Jeanine Cammarata was "terrified" of her estranged husband, and that if something nefarious happened to the woman, it was likely at his hands.
Gansberg said Michael Cammarata had custody of the children because Jeanine was living in an apartment she felt wasn't suitable for them. Jeanine Cammarata worked two jobs -- one at an elementary school and one at a Dollar Store -- and hasn't shown up for either of them this week, which prompted a missing persons report. The couple had no legal custody agreement involving the children.
According to Gansberg, they had lived together but started having problems in 2017. They fought, had orders of protection against each other that were later rescinded and were in the middle of getting divorced. Gansberg said he and Jeanine Cammarata had talked about an upcoming court hearing about a week ago -- and that she wouldn't have missed it for any reason within her control.
That court hearing was Monday. Jeanine Cammarata did not show up.
"When Jeanine did not appear in court, I couldn't figure out why, and it was very upsetting," he said. "We tried to reach her on her cell phone, it went directly to voicemail, text and email. And there was nothing."
Gansberg described her as a dedicated educator, hard worker and loving mom. Jeanine's Staten Island landlord couldn't reach her either.
Michael Cammarata was arrested Tuesday on charges of assault, harassment and stalking in connection with a confrontation Monday in which he allegedly hit Jeanine Cammarata multiple times. He also allegedly stalked her on several previous dates, law enforcement sources tell News 4.
He has not been charged in connection with her disappearance at this time. The NYPD said, though, that they're not looking for any other suspects in Jeanine Cammarata's case and that they're treating it as a murder investigation.
Police say Michael Cammarata made initial statements before hiring an attorney; the name of his lawyer wasn't immediately clear Thursday. Police said he was also arrested in September for allegedly trying to get into a home from which he had been evicted, though it wasn't clear whose home was involved.