Four young men who disappeared from Bucks County last week were lured to their deaths with promises of being sold pounds of marijuana, only to be executed by a pair of cousins who later disposed of their bodies in gruesome fashion, authorities said Friday.
The accused killers — Cosmo DiNardo and Sean Kratz, both 20 — admitted their involvement in the slayings on a 90-acre Solebury Township estate and were held without bail on charges including homicide, robbery, conspiracy and abuse of a corpse. Their confessions provided long-awaited answers in a mystery that gripped Philadelphia and much of the region for days.
In a detailed and often disturbing account outlined in affidavits filed for their arrests, the pair described burning some of their victims and burying them 12½ feet underground in a metal tank they referred to as “the pig roaster.”
They casually discussed shooting one of the men by saying DiNardo “finishe[d] him off” with a gun owned by his mother. Another victim lay screaming, they admitted, as DiNardo ran over him with a backhoe.
And then, after investigators zeroed in on DiNardo as their primary suspect this week, he used the location of the fourth man’s remains as a bargaining chip to save his own life.
But when asked Friday if either man had explained what set off their three-day killing spree this month, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub had no answers to give.
“I don’t know that,” he said. “I’m not really sure we could ever answer that question.”
The charges filed against DiNardo, of Bensalem, and Kratz, of Northeast Philadelphia, capped off a whirlwind week that began Sunday with a desperate plea from authorities for any information on the missing men and continued through Wednesday’s grisly discovery of human remains in a deeply dug grave on the DiNardo family’s 90-acre estate.
The arrests also delivered some measure of resolution for family members of the four victims, many of whom stood vigil for hours in brutal heat this week at the DiNardo farm in wealthy Solebury Township as investigators sifted through the remains.
“Simply losing a loved one is overwhelming,” Gregg Shore, Weintraub’s top deputy, said Friday. “What they’ve had to do, sitting through 96 painstaking hours at a site where weather conditions were awful at times, to see whether their loved ones are in the ground, that has been an overwhelming experience for them.”
At a news conference in Doylestown, Weintraub confirmed that the bodies discovered in the common grave had been identified as those of Dean A. Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown Township; Thomas C. Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township; and Mark P. Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg, Montgomery County.
DiNardo himself led investigators to the fourth victim — Jimi T. Patrick, 19, of Newtown Township — and implicated his cousin in the slayings of the other three only after prosecutors agreed they would not seek the death penalty against him.
Prosecutors defended that deal Friday, saying that the victims’ families had been consulted and that investigators might not ever have found Patrick’s remains or gathered the evidence needed to charge Kratz without DiNardo’s cooperation.
“I can tell you, for I’ve been there, we’d still be looking for Jimi Patrick had we not made this agreement,” Weintraub said, describing a separate grave site “up on top of a mountain” far away from the burial site of the other three.
Weintraub’s office said it had not yet determined whether it would seek a death sentence for Kratz, who, despite having confessed to being present for three of the murders, maintains he did not kill anyone.
Lawyers for DiNardo declined to comment after his arraignment Friday. Kratz told authorities he had not yet retained counsel.
All four appeared to be tied to DiNardo through school or social interactions, based on accounts from friends and a review of their social media accounts.
Finocchiaro was last seen being picked up from his house by DiNardo earlier this month. But when detectives initially grilled DiNardo earlier this week, he told them he kicked the man out of his truck and went fishing after learning Finocchiaro was headed to a “do a big coke deal,” according to court filings in the case.
It was only later and after DiNardo’s confession Thursday that detectives learned Patrick was the first to die.
DiNardo told investigators he picked up Patrick on July 5 at his home in Newtown with an offer to sell him four pounds of marijuana for $8,000. When the man only brought $800 to the exchange, DiNardo said, he led him to a remote part of his family’s property and shot him with a .22-caliber rifle. DiNardo, whose parents own the vast acreage, used a backhoe to dig the six-foot ditch where he buried the man, DiNardo later said.
Two days later, DiNardo set his sights on Finocchiaro and picked up Kratz on the way to meet him. The pair would later tell investigators that they hatched a plan to rob their friend after luring him to the Solebury property.
Instead they drove him to a barn on an ATV, where, DiNardo said, Kratz shot Finocchiaro in the head. (Kratz, in his confession, said it was DiNardo who shot the man.)
They used the backhoe to dump his body in the converted oil tank and headed out to another drug sale DiNardo had set up that evening.
This time, the prospective buyers — Meo and Sturgis — met DiNardo in a nearby church parking lot and followed them back to the family estate. Kratz was waiting.
As DiNardo and Kratz would later tell it, the scene quickly erupted in chaos.
“When they turn their backs on me, I shot Tom in the back,” DiNardo told investigators, according to his arrest affidavit.
Meo immediately collapsed. Sturgis tried to flee, leaving his screaming friend behind. DiNardo said he cut the man down with a single shot.
But then, out of ammunition, DiNardo got the backhoe and used it to crush Meo before dumping his body, along with Sturgis’, in the metal tank with Finocchiaro’s corpse, he would later say.
The cousins doused the corpses in gasoline, lit them and walked away.
Investigators later tracked Meo’s car to the DiNardo estate, the thread that would eventually unravel the rest of the case.
Despite the calculated slayings the men described, nothing in either of their criminal pasts suggested a capacity for such extreme violence. DiNardo had been appointed in 2015 and 2016 to Bensalem Township’s Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board by the township’s mayor, records show. Though, acquaintances said that he had privately bragged to people about killing before.
Still, he and Kratz were no strangers to law enforcement — but primarily for petty, nonviolent crimes.
DiNardo, who has been in custody since Wednesday, charged with the theft of Meo’s car, has had several previous run-ins with local police starting in 2011; he was banned from Arcadia University’s campus after attending one semester there, according to various sources.
He had previously been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, a development that should have prevented him from possessing a firearm.
Yet, he seemed almost relaxed as he appeared from his jail cell via video link for a brief arraignment hearing Friday before District Judge Maggie Snow. Wearing glasses and an orange prison jumpsuit, he said nothing as Snow ordered him held without bail until a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 31.
“He’s accused of committing four homicides in one week,” Snow said. “He’s a tremendous danger to the community.”
Kratz, who was arrested late Thursday at his family’s Northeast Philadelphia home, appeared more ill at ease.
He had been charged twice last year in burglary cases in his hometown and was out on bail for those crimes at the time of the slayings. In addition, court records show that in December 2016, Kratz was charged with retail theft and related charges in Montgomery County.
Dressed Friday in a blue pullover shirt and seated behind a desk, his eyes darted around nervously and he occasionally buried his face in his arms. He told Snow he had been shot three months earlier and was worried about the medical attention he would receive in custody.
The judge suggested he take it up with officials at the prison where he will eventually be held — one she said would be somewhere outside Bucks County to keep Kratz separated from his cousin.
“We need to know where you are, and it’s for your safety,” Snow said.
Weintraub said the investigation would continue. But as he ended his news conference Friday, he kept the focus squarely on the victims.
“I am very, very relieved to say that we brought four young men one step closer to their loved ones,” he said. “Our boys get to go home to their families, which was always our priority.”
Staff writers Erin McCarthy, Julie Shaw, and William Bender contributed to this article.