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Attorney: Client has confessed to killing 4 men in Bucks County

Written by MaryClaire Dale and Anthony Izaguirre/Associated Press | Jul 13, 2017 3:17 PM
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Law enforcement officials walk down a blocked off driveway in Solebury, Bucks County, as the search resumes Tuesday, July 11, 2017, for four missing young Pennsylvania men feared to be the victims of foul play. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

(Doylestown) -- A jailed man who has been the focus of an investigation into the disappearances of four men admitted on Thursday that he killed them and agreed to plead guilty to four murder counts, his attorney said in a surprise development.

Cosmo DiNardo, 20, confessed to the commission or participation in four murders, attorney Paul Lang said outside court, where DiNardo had met with investigators. DiNardo also told investigators where the bodies are.

"I'm sorry," a shackled DiNardo said as he left the courthouse.

In exchange for the cooperation, Lang said, prosecutors were taking the death penalty off the table. There was no immediate comment from prosecutors.

The mystery of the four men's disappearances has transfixed the Philadelphia area over the past week, taking a grisly turn when human remains were discovered in a 12½-foot-deep grave on a farm. But what sort of evil befell them, and why, had remained shrouded in secrecy.

The prosecutor, who has held twice-daily briefings, made it clear Thursday he knew a lot more than he was saying, citing the need to protect the investigation. That only added to the speculation and rumors before DiNardo's confession.

"It's been very unnerving. It's very spooky," said Laura Hefty, who lives a few miles from the gravesite in Solebury Township, where farms bump up against new residential developments.

Many people, she said, were trying to convince themselves this is nothing that could ever happen to their kids.

"They feel incredibly sad. Some people are pretty angry, too," and are asking, "How did it get this bad?" she said.

The four men, all residents of Bucks County, disappeared last week. At least three knew each other. The remains of only one, 19-year-old Dean Finocchiaro, have been identified, though authorities said other remains were found in the hole as well.

DiNardo, the son of the farm property's owners, was being held on $5 million cash bail before his confession, accused of trying to sell one of the victims' cars.

District Attorney Matthew Weintraub parried one question after another by saying he couldn't -- or wouldn't -- answer.

Police were back at the farm Thursday, digging away in the dust and the 90-degree-plus heat and using plywood to shore up the deep, tent-covered trench that they excavated at the spot where Weintraub said dogs managed to "smell these poor boys 12½ feet below the ground."

For days, TV news helicopters trained their cameras on the excavation, creating an unsettling racket but allowing the public to follow the forensic work from their office computers. On one day, viewers could watch investigators haul up buckets of dirt and sift it through handheld screens in what looked like an archaeological dig.

When the prosecutor held a dramatic midnight Wednesday news conference to announce the discovery of remains, Claire Vandenberg, of neighboring New Hope, gathered around a TV with a group of friends to hear developments on what she said is "all we talk about."

"It seemed almost like a horror film or something, just unraveling before our eyes," she said.

Authorities have not revealed any details about how the victims found in the grave may have died or how they got there. The prosecutor had said he thought a backhoe may have been on the property.

Susan Coleman told news outlets that she and her husband were in their backyard last Saturday afternoon when they heard several rounds of what they believed was shotgun fire coming from the direction of the DiNardo farm.

"This person was going bananas," she told phillyvoice.com.

Eric Beitz, who said he had hung out with DiNardo in recent weeks, told philly.com that DiNardo routinely sold guns and on multiple occasions had talked "about weird things like killing people and having people killed."

DiNardo, whose parents own construction and concrete businesses in the Philadelphia area, has had a few brushes with the law over the past year.

He was arrested on Monday on an unrelated gun charge dating from February, accused of illegally possessing a shotgun and ammunition after being involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

His father bailed him out, but he was jailed again later in the week on the stolen-car charges, and bail was set much higher, after a prosecutor said he was a danger to the community because he had been diagnosed as schizophrenic.

His social media posts suggest an avid interest in hunting, fishing and Air Jordan sneakers, which he appeared to sell online. He had enrolled in a nearby college as a commuter student, with hopes of studying abroad in Italy, according to an article on the college website.

The other missing men are Mark Sturgis, 22, and Thomas Meo, 21, who worked together in construction, and Jimi Taro Patrick, 19, a student at Loyola University in Baltimore. Patrick and DiNardo had attended the same Catholic high school for boys.

It was the discovery of Meo's car on a DiNardo family property a half-mile from the farm that led to Cosmo DiNardo's re-arrest.

An attorney for DiNardo's parents said they sympathized with the families of the men and were cooperating in the investigation.

___
The story has been corrected to show the name of the first neighbor quoted is Hefty, not Heft, and that Patrick's middle name is Taro, not Tar, as prosecutors had reported.

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Young women listen to Matthew Weintraub, District Attorney for Bucks County, Pa., speak during a news conference in New Hope, Pa., Thursday, July 13, 2017. Authorities said they've found human remains in their search for four missing young Pennsylvania men and they can now identify one victim. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

An earlier story appears below. 

(New Hope) -- A defense attorney for a jailed man connected to the search for four missing men in Pennsylvania says his client has admitted killing the four and told authorities the location of the bodies.

Lawyer Paul Lang said Thursday his client Cosmo DiNardo confessed to "the four murders" and is ready to plead guilty to four counts of first-degree murder. He says his client has deep remorse.

Authorities found the body of one of the men, 19-year-old Dean Finocchiaro, buried at a farm in Solebury Township farm. The other men missing are 22-year-old Mark Sturgis, 21-year-old Tom Meo and 19-year-old Jimi Tar Patrick. Patrick went to college in Maryland.

Lang says prosecutors agreed to take the death penalty off the table in return for DiNardo's cooperation. There has been no immediate comment from prosecutors.

An earlier story appears below. 

(Undated) -- Police on Thursday returned to a large Pennsylvania farm to resume digging and sifting through a deep common grave where multiple remains were discovered, including one identified as one of four men missing since last week. The prosecutor also issued a fresh appeal for more help from the public in trying to solve the case.

"They are down 12 foot deep in a hole that is getting deeper by the minute," District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said.

Weintraub held a dramatic midnight news conference to announce that remains had been found buried deep underground after four days of searching a farm property north of Philadelphia.

So far, investigators have only been able to identify one set of remains -- those of 19-year-old Dean Finocchiaro, one of the four young men who vanished last week. The prosecutor said he was hopeful more will be able to be identified.

He said police are determined to "bring each and every one of these lost boys home to their families, one way or another."

On Wednesday, police arrested a young man whose parents own the farm on a charge he tried to sell a car belonging to one of the missing men.

Cosmo DiNardo, who is being held on $5 million cash bail, has been described as a person of interest in the investigation. But the prosecutor continued to stop short of calling him a suspect.

The recovered car was found on a second DiNardo family property about a half mile from the farm. A second victim's car was also found less than 3 miles away.

The prosecutor has dribbled out details of the investigation at twice-daily briefing near where the remains were found. Little has been said about how all the young men are connected or what might have led to the disappearance of the four. At least three of the four missing men knew one another.

Weintraub said Thursday he does know more about the relationships among the men but can't share more information because he needs to "maintain the integrity of the investigation."

"This is a homicide. Make no mistake about it. We just don't know how many homicides," Weintraub said at his middle-of-the-night news conference.

DiNardo, 20, was first arrested Monday and held on $1 million bail on an unrelated gun charge before his father paid $100,000 to bail him out Tuesday. The charge stems from accusations that DiNardo was caught with a shotgun and ammunition in February despite a prior involuntary commitment to a mental health institution.

The back-to-back arrests bought investigators time as they scoured the farm and other spots across the county for clues to the men's disappearance, Weintraub said.

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Matthew Weintraub, District Attorney for Bucks County, Pa., speaks with members of the media in New Hope, Pa., Thursday, July 13, 2017. Weintraub said they've found human remains in their search for four missing young Pennsylvania men and they can now identify one victim. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

DiNardo's parents, Antonio and Sandra DiNardo, own the farm in upper Bucks County, a bucolic area with rolling hillsides, new housing developments and historic sites. They also own a concrete company near their home in Bensalem, closer to Philadelphia.

An attorney representing the couple issued a statement saying they sympathize with the families of the missing men and are cooperating "in every way possible with the investigation."

The FBI had been using heavy equipment to dig a deep trench on the farm property and then sifting through each bucket of dirt by hand.

Cadaver dogs led authorities to the spot on the 90-acre farm in Solebury Township where they discovered the remains inside a 12½-foot-deep common grave.

"I don't understand the science behind it, but those dogs could smell these poor boys 12½ feet below the ground," Weintraub said.

Fire and rescue crews on Thursday were using plywood to help shore up the deep grave as investigators worked inside under intense heat and choking dust.

"They're tenderly, painstakingly, reverentially recovering the remains of people they do not even know," Weintraub said.

The other missing men are 22-year-old Mark Sturgis, 21-year-old Tom Meo and 19-year-old Jimi Tar Patrick. Patrick, who was a year behind DiNardo at a Roman Catholic high school for boys, was last seen on July 5; the other three disappeared on Friday.
It's unclear how well the four knew DiNardo, if at all.

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