DOYLESTOWN, Pa. — Hours after finding a fourth body buried in a farm here, authorities charged two men Friday with multiple counts of homicide in what authorities said were marijuana deals that turned murderous.
The disappearances of four men, ages 19 to 22, in recent days rattled this wealthy region north of Philadelphia that is better known for antiquing than for homicide. The disturbing case gained some clarity Friday, with officials describing a violent collision of guns, drugs, mental illness, and money — while acknowledging that the motivations for the slayings remain unclear.
The two men charged with homicide, Cosmo Dinardo and Sean Kratz, both 20, were denied bail in preliminary arraignments Friday afternoon, shortly after Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub emotionally announced that all four of the young men who went missing last week had been found buried on a farm owned by Dinardo’s parents in Solebury Township.
Authorities described a scenario that was repeated three times in early July: The young men were lured to the farm with the promise of marijuana deals, they were shot — one was also run over with a backhoe — and then they were buried on the private property in holes dug with the backhoe. Three of the bodies were put in a large tank, set ablaze, and then dumped into a deep grave, authorities said.
Weintraub emphasized that law enforcement officials were not making any moral judgments about the slain men in outlining the marijuana deals police say were used to draw them in. He said officials instead were focused on bringing the assailants to justice and getting remains of the dead to their families.
“They’ve done nothing to deserve this horrible, unspeakable tragedy that has been set upon them,” Weintraub said of the families at a news conference Friday, adding that they handled the uncertainty with dignity and courage.
Dinardo had already been in custody, held on $5 million bail on a stolen-car charge after he’d become a person of interest in the disappearances. That charge emanated from him allegedly trying to sell a car belonging to one of the victims. Dinardo confessed his involvement on Thursday, implicated Kratz, and gave information about the location of the fourth victim, police say.
Weintraub and other officials talked about the grueling search on the farm, conducted in sweltering conditions and amid drenching downpours over the course of several days. The search went on 24 hours a day, often with family members at the scene, waiting for what would be an awful discovery.
“Our boys get to go home to their families,” Weintraub said. “That was always our first priority.”
In the affidavit charging Dinardo, detectives delivered a chilling and baffling narrative of violence. Dinardo told police that on July 5 he agreed to sell four pounds of marijuana for $8,000 to Jimi Patrick, 19, who recently finished his freshman year at Loyola University in Baltimore. Dinardo picked Patrick up at his home and drove him to the farm, which is just a few miles west of the tourist town of New Hope, Pa.
But Patrick only had $800, the affidavit states. Dinardo then offered to sell Patrick a shotgun for that amount.
“Dinardo took Patrick to a remote part of the property and gave him a shotgun. Dinardo then shot and killed Patrick with a .22 caliber rifle,” the affidavit states — without offering a further explanation of why the deal ended with his death.
Dinardo then buried Patrick’s body six feet deep using a backhoe on the farm.
Two days later, Dinardo said he and Kratz, of Philadelphia, decided to rob Dean Finocchiaro during a drug deal. Dinardo told police he gave Kratz his mother’s Smith and Wesson .357 handgun for the robbery. Police say Dinardo said he had promised to sell marijuana to Finocchiaro, 19. They met at Finocchiaro’s home and then went to the farm.
While on his parents’ property, Dinardo told police, Kratz shot Finocchiaro near a barn. The two men then placed his remains in a metal tank that Dinardo called “the pig roaster,” police wrote.
Police say Kratz, who Dinardo described as his cousin, gave a similar account but said it was Dinardo who killed Finocchiaro.
DiNardo confessed in return for no death penalty, defense attorney said. pic.twitter.com/NbxSO1pHXI
— James Boyle (@jamesboylejr) July 13, 2017
According to the police affidavit, Dinardo said he also had a deal in place that night to sell marijuana to Thomas Meo, 21. At the time Dinardo met up with him, Meo and his good friend Mark Sturgis, 22, were in Meo’s Nissan Maxima, police say.
Dinardo then brought the two other men to his farm, where Kratz was waiting. Police said both Dinardo and Kratz described Dinardo shooting Meo in the back and also shooting at Sturgis, who tried to flee. According to the police affidavit, Dinardo said he felled Sturgis but ran out of ammunition; he then drove a backhoe over Meo’s body.
Police say Dinardo then used the backhoe to place their bodies in the tank with Finocchiaro’s. Dinardo then poured gasoline into the tank and lit it, police say, returning a day later to bury their remains in a hole he dug with the backhole.
Weintraub said that while Dinardo attempted to burn the bodies of those three men, “I don’t believe that was successful.”
Investigators found the metal tank containing the remains about 12 feet below the surface. But they did not immediately find Patrick’s remains.
Dinardo’s attorney said Thursday that his client confessed to his role in the killings in exchange for being spared a death sentence. On Friday, Weintraub offered more detail about that agreement, saying that without it, authorities might never have located Patrick’s body, which Dinardo described to police as in a location far from the other mass grave but still on the family farm.
“I can tell you, I’ve been there, we’d still be looking for Jimi Patrick had we not made this agreement,” Weintraub said.
Bucks County District Attorney’s Office photos of the missing men. Top row: Dean Finocchiaro, 18, left, and Tom Meo, 21. Bottom row: Jimi Patrick, 19, left, and Mark Sturgis, 22. (Bucks County District Attorney’s Office via Reuters)
Kratz and Dinardo face a long list of charges that include abusing corpses and conspiring to commit criminal homicide.
Both suspects appeared separately by video link for their arraignments in a small courtroom in Buckingham presided over by Magisterial District Judge Maggie Snow. Dinardo, in the county jail, wore a red jumpsuit; Kratz, in a blue jumpsuit, spoke from a lockup at the county’s Justice Center. The judge ordered them held in separate facilities.
Kratz, sounding subdued, said he didn’t yet have an attorney yet. He said he lived in Philadelphia with his mother, stepfather, sister, little brother and nephew.
Asked by the judge if he had anything else to say, Kratz said he’d been shot a few months ago and has trouble putting weight on one leg. The judge assured him his medical needs would be attended to. Dinardo had little to say other than, “Thank you, your honor.”
Dinardo had already been in custody after he was arrested and charged with trying to sell Meo’s Nissan Maxima for $500. Prosecutors have said that Dinardo suffers from an unspecified “severe mental illness,” noting that he had been confined to a mental health facility after an episode during which he fired a shotgun.
Officials said Friday that even with the confessions and two men behind bars, they were still not sure what motivated the killings.
“I’m not sure if we could ever answer that question,” Weintraub said.
Cosmo Dinardo seen being escorted to a police vehicle on Thursday after his apparent confession. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Berman reported from Washington. Magda Jean-Louis and Emma Ockerman contributed to this report.
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