Bucks DA: Remains of multiple bodies found in field
Investigators on Wednesday found human remains buried on a sprawling Bucks County property and said they believed the dead included at least one of the four men whose disappearance last week set in motion the biggest search in recent county history.
District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub said some of the remains belonged to Dean A. Finocchiaro, 18, of Middletown. But the remains could comprise three or four bodies, he said at the news conference at midnight.
“This painstaking process will go on, we're not done yet,” he said. “This is a homicide, no question about it.”
No charges had been filed in connection with the grim discovery at the Solebury Township property of Antonio and Sandra DiNardo. But it seemed to be the biggest break in a case that had gripped the region and drawn national attention, and an intense spotlight on their son, Cosmo DiNardo.
The 20-year-old, who Weintraub had earlier termed “a person of interest” in the case, was charged Wednesday afternoon with stealing a car belonging to one of the missing men, Thomas C. Meo, and returned to jail with bail set at $5 million.
At an afternoon arraignment in Doylestown on the felony theft charge, District Justice Maggie Snow justified DiNardo's high bail, calling the young man “a grave risk… given the gravity of what's going on here right now.” DiNardo, wearing a blue tank top and eyeglasses, appeared by live video from the Bensalem Police Department.
Meo, 21, from Plumstead, disappeared Friday along with Mark R. Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg and Dean A. Finocchiaro, 18, of Middletown. Another young man, Jimi Tar Patrick, 19, of Newtown, went missing two days earlier. All appeared to have some connection to DiNardo.
DiNardo, of Bensalem, is charged with stealing — and trying on Sunday to sell for $500 — a car owned by Thomas C. Meo, 21, of Plumstead, one of the missing men. Meo's car was spotted following a DiNardo family vehicle on Friday night, court records indicated. While prosecutors have not accused DiNardo of any violent acts in the case, they said he is “a dangerous person,” has schizophrenia and is a flight risk; his lawyers, however, claimed he was being shamed for his mental health struggles.
Weintraub had said Wednesday he had “no doubt” investigators were going to find something.
Police and state investigators — with FBI agents and U.S. Marshals — used brooms, shovels, metal detectors, and a backhoe to dig, sift and collect potential evidence at the DiNardo property, in what became the largest such hunt in recent county history. Some wore protective clothing and foot coverings at what appeared in aerial photographs to be a key search site, where several portable tent canopies have been erected.
As a flurry of late-night activity occurred at the site Wednesday, the families of the four men continued to keep vigil, remaining there into the evening.
Authorities were still requesting tips Wednesday afternoon about the four men and DiNardo. But some links connecting the men had emerged by midweek: A Bensalem friend of Meo's, Eric Beitz, said that DiNardo aggressively sought new customers for his marijuana and firearms dealings. Beitz, Meo and Sturgis reportedly first met DiNardo when he was looking to sell pot. Sturgis and Meo were good friends and worked together. DiNardo and Patrick both attended Holy Ghost Preparatory High School in Bensalem. DiNardo and Finocchiaro appeared to share an interest in ATVs, and were both in at least one public Facebook page for buying and selling quad bikes.
Data from a mobile license plate reader showed a truck belonging to DiNardo's father – which DiNardo told police he had been driving – pass just before 8 p.m. on July 7, on Street Road in Solebury, less than a mile from the DiNardo property. Seconds later, Meo's car followed, according to court filings.
A Bensalem man told police DiNardo tried to sell the 1996 Nissan Maxima for $500 on July 8, according to court filings. Early the next morning, it was found at a different DiNardo property on nearby Aquetong Road, and Sturgis' Nissan was found less than two miles away, near Peddlers Village.
Meo's diabetic kit, which his family said he is never without, was found in the car. Relatives told the DA that Meo would go into diabetic shock without his medication and couldn't survive without the kit.
“They had this information days ago. They didn't charge him. They now charge him because he made bail,” said Michael Parlow, one of DiNardo's lawyers.
A man who did not want to be named and lives near the property that is the focus of the search said Wednesday he had given surveillance footage to police. He also said he heard gunshots at the property Friday evening. He said he did not report the gunshots to police at the time because that it is not unusual to hear gunfire coming from that property. But he “very rarely” sees people coming and going from the driveway, he said, and when he does it is usually heavy equipment.
Earlier Wednesday, Weintraub would not comment on the neighbor's report. He also could not say whether a grand jury investigation had been opened into the case.
“I am prohibited by law from even telling you there is a grand jury impaneled here in Bucks County. But I want to assure you we are utilizing every resource at our disposal to try to find these four missing young men and to solve this case,” Weintraub said.
Weintraub also had declined to comment on whether firearms have been recovered as part of the investigation, or on whether cell phone pings had been used or if they had led investigators to the DiNardo property in Solebury.
Search warrants have been filed for properties across the county, but the district attorney's office said they remain under seal.
DiNardo's parents have not been named as persons of interest in the case. They own multiple businesses in the area, along with large swaths of property in Solebury and Bensalem.
“As parents, Mr. and Mrs. DiNardo sympathize with the parents and families of the missing young men and they are cooperating in every way possible with the investigation being conducted by law enforcement,” said Fortunato Perri Jr., in a statement Wenesday. He said he is now also an attorney for Cosmo DiNardo.