It’s been nearly a year since the murders of four young men on a Bucks County farm captured the attention of the region and nation
On Wednesday, Cosmo DiNardo, the 21-year-old Bensalem resident accused in the murders, pleaded guilty to killing and burying Thomas Meo, Mark Sturgis, Dean Finocchiaro, and Jimi Patrick. His cousin and accused co-conspirator in three of the murders, Sean Kratz, 21 of Philadelphia, rejected a plea deal, opting to head to trial.
As the weeks-long search for the bodies continued last summer, more and more questions arose. While some remain unanswered, many grisly details about the crimes have surfaced since last year. Here’s a look at six of the most shocking things to know about the bizarre case that gripped the area.
1. Luring their victims with marijuana deals
The murders allegedly began with the promise of drugs. Cosmo DiNardo is said to have lured the four to his parents’ property — a sprawling 90-acre farm in Solebury Township — to sell them marijuana.
DiNardo told investigators that he first picked up Patrick, 19, of Newtown Township, to sell him the drug before shooting him and burying his body on the farm. DiNardo and Kratz then planned to sell Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown Township, weed, but allegedly shot him in a barn on the property instead. Another purported marijuana deal also led to the deaths of Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township, and Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg.
2. Disposing the bodies in ‘the pig roaster’
Some of the most shocking details to arise from the murders were how the cousins allegedly disposed of their victims’ bodies. 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.”
DiNardo allegedly used a backhoe to dig a six-foot-deep ditch where he buried Patrick, who was discovered “up on top of a mountain” and away from the common grave where the other three were found.
3. A nearly two-week search
Authorities spent nearly two weeks on the vast stretch of land looking for evidence and the bodies in the sweltering July heat.
“Simply losing a loved one is overwhelming,” Gregg Shore, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub’s top deputy, said last summer. “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.”
The use of cadaver dogs also helped investigators pick up the scent of human remains 12 feet below ground.
4. Social media rumors; DiNardo’s alarming postings
The case had a number of social media strains.
After the young men were reported missing but before the arrests, speculation about the disappearances raged on social media, fueling rumors and outright falsehoods. One early rumor linked a Bensalem man who had been arrested the previous month for beating up another township man near Temple University with the disappearances of the four. The assault suspect, it went, was a Facebook friend of one of the victims. The false story soon spread that the missing men were witnesses in the assault case.
After DiNardo’s arrest, focus shifted to his postings on Facebook. Instagram and Snapchat, including a photo with a crazed look in his eyes while holding a handgun, that hinted at his unraveling.
“I am a savage no explanation needed,” he posted on Facebook seven months before the killings.
He also bragged about selling marijuana and sought women — sometimes aggressively and with vulgar language — in frequent posts asking for people to hang out with him or bemoaning his lack of dates. In their responses, women suggested he was a loser.
5. The role of DiNardo’s parents: A ‘playland’ for criminal activities
While DiNardo’s parents, Antonio and Sandra, had no direct role in the killings, the victims’ families have alleged they provided him with a “playland” for his criminal activities and allowed him access to weapons despite documented mental health issues — which included an involuntary commitment to a mental health facility and a ban from both his high school and a college he briefly attended.
The “playland” was the farm property owned by the parents and where DiNardo killed the young men and used backhoe belonging to the family construction business. They have not been criminally charged. Lawsuits by the victims’ families against the parents and their business are pending.
6. A questionable past: Bans from campuses, gun charge
The 21-year-old suspect was reportedly unwelcome at two schools he attended because of his behavior.
DiNardo, a graduate of Holy Ghost Prep, a private Catholic prep school in Bensalem, was escorted and banned from campus after showing up uninvited to an open house, where he was loud and disorderly.
DiNardo attended Arcadia University for a semester in the fall of 2015 but sought to re-enroll a year later. However, he was banned from the campus after he had “verbal interactions with members of the university community” that made some uncomfortable, a source told the Inquirer and Daily News last July.
A gun charge against DiNardo was dismissed in May 2017. Though, that wasn’t his only run-in with the law before he became the major suspect in the Bucks slayings. Bensalem police had 40 encounters with DiNardo since 2011, most of which were nonviolent.