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July 12, 2017

Investigators find 'common grave' with human remains during search for missing Bucks County men

Bucks County D.A. said they have identified the body of 19-year-old Dean Finocchiaro found in 12-1/2-foot deep hole

One of the four missing Bucks County men has been found dead, his body identified among multiple human remains found in a "common grave," Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub announced Thursday shortly after midnight.

Weintraub only identified Dean Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown, as "one of the people" found.

UPDATE: FBI releases new tipline as work continues at Bucks County homicide scene

Investigators located the remains buried more than 12 feet underground in a spot identified by cadaver dogs.

"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 during the news conference.

The other human remains found in the grave have not been identified yet, and Weintraub could not say whether they belonged to any of the other three missing men for which authorities in Bucks County have been searching.

Also missing are Mark Sturgis, 22, Jimi Taro Patrick, 19, and Tom Meo, 21. Patrick disappeared last Wednesday; the other three vanished Friday.

Weintraub could say with certainty that police are now dealing with a homicide case.

"No doubt about it," he said. "We just don't know how many homicides. We have yet to answer that question."

Authorities are set to hold another news conference 11 a.m. Thursday, he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the 20-year-old man described as a person of interest in the case, Cosmo DiNardo, was arrested for the second time in three days after he allegedly tried to sell a car belonging to 21-year-old Tom Meo of Bensalem, one of the missing men.

While Weintraub was careful not to directly link DiNardo to the human remains, he said he hopes DiNardo stays behind bars. DiNardo is in custody in lieu of $5 million cash bail in the car theft case.

He said authorities do not yet have enough evidence charge anyone with Finocchario's death, but officials are "going to start looking seriously at the homicide charges and, in fact, we already have pursued that option."

"I thought we bought ourselves a little time in charging Mr. DiNardo with the stolen car case (on Wednesday) and getting that $5 million bail," Weintraub said. "It is my hope he does not post that, but that is his prerogative, of course, if he can post it."

Since Sunday, police have been searching the farmland owned by DiNardo's family in Solebury Township, Buck County.

Weintraub said authorities have found evidence in two different locations, but that he could not specify where.

DiNardo allegedly tried to sell Meo's 1996 Nissan Maxima for $500, police said, after Meo went missing Friday. 

He first was arrested Monday on an unrelated gun charge. His father posted $100,000 to bail him out Tuesday. Weintraub said at the time he wanted a higher bond for DiNardo's second arrest because he believes the 20- poses a flight risk. DiNardo also was described as a danger to the community.

Earlier Wednesday, the prosecutor said important evidence had been found both at the family farm about 30 miles north of Philadelphia and other properties, but no human remains.

"The search at the scene is really intensifying," Weintraub had said late Wednesday upon announcing DiNardo's arrest. "I'm very encouraged ... that we're going to get some finality in this just prolonged ordeal."

According to a police affidavit, police found Meo's car Sunday on a DiNardo family property in Solebury Township, Bucks County, where the farm is also located. They said the keys and a title were hanging up in a garage. A witness said DiNardo offered to sell him the car on Saturday.

On the last night Meo and Sturgis were seen, a police license plate scanner picked up DiNardo's truck and Meo's car driving just seconds apart. The location was within a couple of miles from where Meo's car was found and where Sturgis' vehicle was discovered, a short distance away.

An attorney for DiNardo's parents, Antonio and Sandra DiNardo, issued a statement Wednesday saying the couple sympathize with the families of the missing men and are cooperating "in every way possible with the investigation."

The DiNardo farm alone covers 90 acres, much of it cornfields. They also own other nearby farm parcels, along with concrete and construction businesses based in Bensalem, about 20 miles away, where the son was arrested at the family home.

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

At a morning briefing on Wednesday, Weintraub said police would "continue digging and searching that property until we're satisfied that they are not there."

"This is just really, really rough on everybody involved because of the heat, the magnitude, the scope — and the stakes are incredibly high, life and death," he said.

At least some of the missing men are friends, but it's unclear how well they knew DiNardo, if at all. Online records suggest he attended the same Catholic high school as Patrick but was a year ahead.

In the February gun charge he still faces, DiNardo is accused of illegally being in possession of a shotgun and ammunition because of a previous involuntary commitment to a mental health institution. An affidavit in that case said he is "known to be suffering from mental illness."

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 at one point as a commuter student, with hopes of studying abroad in Italy, according to an article on the college website. He had a few other brushes with the law since turning 18 over traffic violations and other minor infractions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.