They’re searching for bodies on a farm 3 miles from my house. This doesn’t happen in Solebury. Four young men are missing, ages 19 to 22. One has been gone for a week and the other 3 are missing for several days now. It’s awful and it’s all anyone can talk about. A community obsessed with the latest coverage. We collectively drive by the search site, taken back by the presence of local and national news vans that now dot the shoulders of a usually passive Route 202. We follow the DA’s updates and press conference with rapt attention. Anxiously awaiting something, anything that will tell us that it was all a big mistake, the boys are fine, you can go back to your regularly scheduled summer activities. That hasn’t happened and it won’t. God only knows what will get unearthed on that farm.
To say this is unusual here is an understatement. This part of Bucks County is pretty homogeneous – mostly liberal, white collar and well educated. I have often joked about the lack of diversity in this area we have white and gay white with few exceptions. We have crime here – burglaries, some drugs, DUIs and the occasional insurance fraud. Murder is not something that happens on the regular here. A good chunk of the local population has moved here from New Jersey or New York mostly for the favorable taxes and a good school district. We aren’t unaware of how the rest of the world is we just found ourselves in a bubble believing that it’s a great place to raise kids. We are less sure of our choices now.
Fast-forward a few days and the facts are unraveling in the most horrible way. A 12.5-foot deep grave was discovered with the help of cadaver dogs on loan from the FBI. The remains of three of the missing men were located in a tank in the deep grave. Dean Finocchiaro (19) was the first to be identified. It took longer to identify the remains of the other two occupants – Tom Meo (21) and Mark Sturgis (22).
The fourth victim to be found and identified was the first to go missing. Jimi Patrick (19) was found in a separate location on another part of the 80-acre farm. The location of Mr. Patrick was given in exchange for taking the death penalty off the table for Cosmo DiNardo. According to reports, the DA, Matt Weintraub, conferred with the families of the then missing men before going forward with the arrangement. Some people are outraged by this deal and I understand their anger. It is just so rare to see the death penalty actually utilized. I think Mr. Weintraub made the best decision under the worst of circumstances.
There’s also a swarm of rumors buzzing about on social media. The one with the most intrique is that these missing men were witnesses to a beating in May near the Temple campus in Philly. Billy Riddle, the person charged with the assault that nearly killed a young man for seemingly no reason except that he had the misfortune of crossing paths, is rumored to have set up a hit on these young men.
Rumor has it that Cosmo DiNardo owed Billy Riddle some money over drug deals and getting rid of the beating witnesses would clear his debt. I have no idea if there is even a whiff of truth to this. I suspect at this point if it were true we would be hearing about it. As it stands now, that hasn’t come up in the handful of press conferences that have taken place.
Other rumors are that the DiNardo family is in the mob. The name ends in a vowel, proximity to Philly, his parents own a construction company and they have vast acreage with backhoes and other equipment. People draw their own conclusions and imaginations are ripe with possibilities real or not. I’ve also heard people speculate that Cosmo is a serial killer. I guess time will tell. He without a doubt is responsible for the deaths of 4 young men, who knows if there are others.
The actual story that is being reported is less Hollywood and acutely more senseless. Apparently, three separate drug deals were made and the men were shot on the property in three separate incidents. Mr. Patrick was the first to be killed. He was meeting with DiNardo to purchase pot and was shot and buried by DiNardo. In this case DiNardo acted alone seemingly because the deal changed to something less favorable.
Two days later the same fate was met by Mr. Finocchiaro in a barn on the property. This time his cousin, Sean Kratz, accompanied DiNardo. Kratz and DiNardo disagree on who fired the first shot at Finocciaro but DiNardo admits to firing a second shot when the victim was on the ground.
Later that same day, Mr. Meo and Mr. Sturgis met the same fate as the other two. They were lured to the property for a drug transaction and were quickly shot when they exited DiNardo’s truck. It’s been reported that Mr. Sturgis was running away when he was shot having just witnessed his best friend Mr. Meo get shot. It’s also been noted that Mr. Meo was run over by the back hoe to make sure he was dead as the killers ran out of ammunition.
The bodies of the three victims killed on July 7th were transferred to a tank and DiNardo and Kratz attempted to burn them. The next day the tank was placed in a 12.5 deep grave, which was dug by a backhoe that resided on the property. Sometime that weekend a ping from Mr. Finocciaro’s cell phone set the investigation in motion. The discovery of Mr. Meo’s car on another local property also owned by the DiNardo family gave investigators enough reason to search the farm diligently.
Cosmo DiNardo and his cousin Sean Kratz both face multiple counts in relation to the four murders including robbery, abuse of a corpse and conspiracy. They are both being held without bail and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 31st. As a community we are relieved that they are locked up.
There is a cloud of sadness, anger and devastation hanging over this usually bucolic location. We are a community of mourners, still collecting facts and speculating over the rumors. Wondering how it all went down in our back yard unbeknownst to us. Our sleepy little town has been awakened in the most jarring and gruesome way.