Pennsylvania police have made a breakthrough in a case that has been haunting Bucks County for more than a week. District Attorney Matthew Weintraub announced on Wednesday that authorities had discovered human remains while searching for four missing men.
Nineteen-year-old Bucks County local, Jimi Tar Patrick, was reported missing last week Wednesday. Two days later, on Friday, Patrick's friends - Mark R. Sturgis, 22, Dean Finocchiaro, 19, and Thomas Meo, 21 - were also unaccounted for, prompting authorities to launch an extensive search effort.
A man named Cosmo DiNardo - originally from the town of Bensalem - was marked by investigators as a "person of interest" in the disappearance case. DiNardo was known to the police after he was arrested in February for the illegal possession of a firearm.
According to a police affidavit, DiNardo is barred from carrying a gun due to a history of mental illness. The charges were later dismissed.
Nevertheless, on Monday, investigators re-arrested DiNardo after deciding to refile the charges from February after he was identified as a potential suspect in the case of the four missing men. On Tuesday night, DiNardo's father posted bail, and his son was released.
But not for long.
Yesterday morning, DiNardo was apprehended again, this time on charges of vehicle theft. Police officers had discovered a Nissan Maxima belonging to one of the four missing men, Thomas Meo. DiNardo allegedly attempted to sell the car to a friend for $500.
With DiNardo back in police custody, various local law enforcement agencies, including the F.B.I, enlisted the help of cadaver dogs as they scoured the countryside. Property belonging to Cosmo DiNardo's family, situated in Solebury Township just north of Philadelphia, became the focus of the search.
The cadaver dogs soon picked up a suspicious scent and led the authorities to a site on the DiNardo farm that had been turned into a "common grave," according to D.A. Weintraub. The body of Dean Finocchiaro, along with additional human remains, was discovered in the 12-feet-deep pit.
During a press conference on Wednesday night, Weintraub was unable to confirm whether the other human remains belonged to Finocchiaro's friends, Patrick, Sturgis, and Meo.
"This painstaking process will go on. We're going to bring each and every one of these lost boys home to their families one way or another. We will not rest until we do that."Following the gruesome discovery at the DiNardo farm, authorities upgraded the missing person case to a homicide investigation. District Attorney Weintraub indicated that, although the discovery of human remains cast doubt on the possibility of finding the other three men alive, he remains optimistic.
Philly.com managed to track down a close friend of Thomas Meo, 20-year-old Eric Beitz, who claims that they had spent lots of time with DiNardo in recent weeks. According to Beitz, DiNardo seemed as though he was trying to pass as an affable person, when, in fact, his true nature was allegedly more sinister.
Beitz says DiNardo was a firearm dealer and has often spoken about killing people who were indebted to him. "I can tell you on multiple different occasions, on multiple different accounts, from multiple different people, including myself – Cosmo has spoken about weird things like killing people and having people killed," he said.
"Everybody you talk to about this guy, you hear he's mentally unstable."The Daily Mail reported that DiNardo allegedly holds a Flickr account where he has posted about 187 photographs of multiple pairs of shoes. Accompanying the shoes in certain images are some bullets, while each image has a note with DiNardo's name written on it.
Prosecutors in the case have confirmed that DiNardo has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and has previously been forcibly committed to a mental health institution.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the DiNardo family released a statement saying that Cosmo's parents, Antonio and Sandra DiNardo, were fully cooperating with investigators.
D.A. Weintraub reminded members of the public that although DiNardo is a suspect, the investigation remains wide open. He clarified that there is a big difference between naming a "person of interest," and officially charging them.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the families of the missing men have been keeping vigil over the past week as officials searched for their loved ones.
Earlier this week, Mark Potash, the father of Mark R. Sturgis, told the Inquirer that he was trying not to lose hope.
"At this point, as the hours pass, it seems more and more grim."Potash describes his son as a "super intelligent" young man, as well as a skilled guitar player and athlete.
Of Thomas Meo, Eric Beitz says his friend is "the most good-hearted, loyal, hard-working young man I've ever met in my life."
Dean Finocchiaro's best friend, Wil Snyder, said that Dean was "a good guy," and a "good friend."
This investigation is ongoing.
[Featured Image by Matt Rourke/AP Images]