The body of one of four young men who went missing in rural Pennsylvania last weekend has been identified as being in a common grave, police say. A man whose parents own the property in Bucks County has been arrested; he is accused of trying to sell the car belonging to one of the missing people.
Cosmo Dinardo, 20, of Bensalem, Pa., is being held on a $5 million cash bail after being arrested Wednesday; one day earlier, he had been deemed a “person of interest” in the missing-persons case by Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub.
Weintraub spoke to the media after informing the parents of Dean Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown Township, that their son’s body had been identified after being recovered from a grave that was more than 12 feet deep.
“This was a homicide. Make no doubt about it,” Weintraub said at a news conference late Wednesday night, describing how investigators had spent days searching land owned by Dinardo’s parents in Solebury Township — an area that the district attorney’s office describes as normally placid and picturesque.
“I don’t understand the science behind it, but those dogs could smell these poor boys 12 1/2 feet below the ground,” Weintraub said.
The investigation “is still wide open,” the district attorney said.
In addition to Finocchiaro, the missing men are:
- Thomas Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township
- Mark Sturgis 22, of Pennsburg
- Jimi Patrick, 19, of Newtown Township
Patrick has been missing since July 5; the other three have been missing since July 7.
Meo and Sturgis were friends who worked together, police say. Both of their cars were found after they were reported missing last week — and Dinardo was arrested after a friend of his told police that Dinardo had approached him about selling Meo’s 1996 Nissan Maxima for $500 on July 8. The car was later recovered from the Dinardos’ land in Solebury Township.
It’s the second time in recent days that Dinardo has been arrested. He was charged with an unrelated weapons offense but was released late Tuesday after his father posted part of a $1 million bail.
On Wednesday, prosecutors argued for a higher bail amount, on the grounds that Dinardo “had a history of severe mental illness, that he had been committed to a mental health facility after firing a shotgun, that the new charges involved one of the missing men, and that Dinardo and his family’s property are at the nexus of the ongoing investigation,” the district attorney’s office says.
Police say they were able to establish that Dinardo’s and Meo’s vehicles were at the same place around the same time on the night of July 7, after their search for the license plate numbers of Dinardo’s Ford pickup truck and Meo’s Nissan in a local database.
The tags of both vehicles were captured by a mobile police license plate reader within seconds of each other on that Friday night in Peddler’s Village, an area of restaurants and stores less than two miles from Dinardo’s parents’ property, investigators say. Less than 1 mile from that spot, police also found Sturgis’ vehicle.
As Newsworks reports from member station WHYY, an attorney representing the Dinardo family “issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying they sympathize with the families of the missing men and are cooperating ‘in every way possible with the investigation.’ ”