Under the sweltering sun and thrum of hovering news helicopters, hundreds of law enforcement officers combed a sprawling Bucks County farm for six days, frantically searching for four young men who went missing last week.
The officers eventually unearthed three bodies from a mass grave more than 12 feet deep. But to find the last man’s remains, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub needed help from the suspected killer.
As Weintraub announced the arrest Friday of 20-year-old Cosmo DiNardo, the district attorney said the deal he made with DiNardo — to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for DiNardo’s telling him where 19-year-old Jimi Taro Patrick was buried — was necessary to bring closure to Patrick’s family.
“We’d still be looking for Jimi Patrick had we not made this agreement,” Weintraub said at a news conference in Doylestown.
Police said DiNardo implicated his cousin, 20-year-old Sean M. Kratz, 20, of Philadelphia, who also was charged Friday with homicide and related crimes.
The killings, outlined in court records, were both brutal and inexplicable.
Prosecutors say the cousins lured Patrick and three others — Dean Finocchiaro, 19, Mark Sturgis, 22, and Tom Meo, 21 — to the 68-acre farm with the promise of selling them marijuana.
DiNardo allegedly shot Patrick first, on July 5, walking him to a remote part of the Solebury farm, which is owned by DiNardo’s parents, then shooting him with a .22-caliber rifle. He allegedly used a backhoe that was on the property to dig a 6-foot hole and rolled Patrick’s body into it.
Two days later, DiNardo told police, he arranged to sell a quarter pound of marijuana to Finocchiaro for $700. DiNardo and Kratz picked up Finocchiaro, but then changed their minds about selling him the drugs and instead plotted to rob him, court records say.
DiNardo told investigators he gave Kratz a handgun, court records say, which Kratz used to shoot Finocchiaro in the head after the trio drove an all-terrain vehicle around the property. The records say Kratz told police DiNardo fired the shots.
The men wrapped Finocchiaro’s body in a tarp and hid it near a corn crib, the records say. When the tarp ripped as they tried to move the body later, DiNardo told investigators, they used a backhoe to put it in a metal tank that been converted into what he called a “pig roaster.”
DiNardo told detectives he had previously set up a deal with Meo to sell him marijuana later that night. After meeting Meo, who had his friend Sturgis with him, at nearby Peddler’s Village, the cousins took the men to the farm, according to the records.
As soon as Meo and Sturgis got out of DiNardo’s pickup truck, the cousins began firing, court records say.
“When they turned their backs on me, I shot Tom in the back,” DiNardo allegedly told investigators.
Sturgis tried to run, but was gunned down, DiNardo told detectives.
DiNardo allegedly told police he ran over Meo with the backhoe. Kratz would later tell detectives that he watched his cousin drive over Meo’s body.
“He basically crushes him,” Kratz said, according to court records.
The cousins loaded the three bodies into the pig roaster, police said, and poured gasoline on them. They set the bodies on fire, court records say, and left the farm.
The following afternoon, court records say, the cousins returned to the farm and used the backhoe to bury the tank with the three partially burned bodies inside.
One day later, after getting a tip, police began searching the farm.
In the five days that followed, DiNardo was arrested and jailed twice: first, for illegally possessing a firearm, then for attempting to sell Meo’s car.
DiNardo’s father posted $100,000 cash to bail DiNardo out after the first arrest. After he was charged again, on July 12, DiNardo’s bail was set at $5 million cash. He remained behind bars.
The search was a 24-hour operation, Weintraub said, calling it the most complicated investigation in his 25-year career. The mystery of the lost men drew international attention, and dozens of media outlets descended on Solebury Township, an affluent bedroom community about 30 miles south of Easton.
Local, state and federal officers took shifts at the farm and volunteers brought in heavy machinery to help with the digging. A busload of police cadets arrived midweek to search dilapidated outbuildings while cadaver dogs combed the woods and cornfields.
It was the dogs, Weintraub would later announce, who sniffed out the deep grave with the three men inside. At a dramatic news conference just after midnight Wednesday, Weintraub announced that human remains of several bodies had been recovered and Finocchiaro’s remains had been identified.
With Patrick still missing, the search intensified. Three miles away, at the Bucks County Courthouse in Doylestown, DiNardo and his attorneys met Thursday for hours with detectives.
Paul Lang, one of DiNardo’s two lawyers, told reporters afterward that his client confessed. Weintraub confirmed that Friday, and said he did not know why DiNardo decided to cooperate.
“I’d like to think that he wanted to get these boys home,” Weintraub said.
The motive for the killings remains a mystery.
“I’m not sure if we could ever answer that question,” Weintraub said.
DiNardo and Kratz are charged with homicide, conspiracy to commit homicide, robbery, abuse of a corpse, illegal possession of a weapon and conspiracy. They are being held in separate jails without bail.
Weintraub said the investigation remains open, but he is confident the suspects in custody are the killers.
At the Friday news conference announcing the arrests, Weintraub thanked all the law enforcement agencies who “worked tirelessly” to find the men, and members of the public who called in dozens of tips.
Weintraub said he is “in awe” of the men’s families, who kept a constant vigil at the search site, despite temperatures that soared into the 90s with stifling humidity.
“I wouldn’t want to be in their situation, but if I ever were, I pray that I could handle this with the courage and the dignity that they exhibited,” he said.
Although DiNardo’s and Kratz’s trials are ahead, Weintraub said he’s satisfied that the most important part of the case is complete.
“Our job is not done, but we have two men locked up who need to be brought to justice,” Weintraub said.
And the families have closure.
“Our boys get to go home to their families,” he said, “which was always our first priority.”
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