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July 11, 2017

Neighbors tell of 'disturbing' gunshots near Bucks farm before police search for missing men

Couple says they heard several rounds of shotgun fire on Saturday afternoon

A man described by police as a person of interest in the ongoing, high-profile investigation of four missing men in Bucks County was released on bail Tuesday night after he was held on illegal possession of a shotgun and ammunition.

UPDATE: Investigators recover 'important' evidence in search of four missing men

But a resident wonders whether she and her husband heard that shotgun being fired near their Solebury home on Saturday afternoon. Four separate times.

When Solebury Township police announced on its Facebook page that police activity had closed Aquetong Road between Meeting House Road and Route 202 Sunday evening, Susan Coleman replied a few hours later, saying she and her husband, Keith, had heard numerous, reverberating sounds of shotgun fire.

Since Sunday, police been conducting a search on farmland near Route 202 and Aquetong Road, about a half-mile from the Colemans' residence.

Cosmo DiNardo, 20, is accused of illegally possessing a shotgun and ammunition in February. A court affidavit said he had suffered from mental illness and had been involuntarily committed to an institution for inpatient care. It did not say when the commitment had occurred. The charge had been dismissed by a judge but was refiled.

Late Tuesday, DiNardo was released after he posted 10 percent of his bail amount in cash, according to the Bucks County District Attorney's Twitter account.

District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said bail was set at $1 million Monday for DiNardo, whose family owns the farmland and another property that was searched, because he was considered a flight risk. But Weintraub did not call him a suspect and cautioned there is often a "chasm" between being called a "person of interest" in an investigation and being charged with a crime.

Officers are searching for 22-year-old Mark Sturgis, 21-year-old Tom Meo, 19-year-old Dean Finocchiaro and 19-year-old Jimi Taro Patrick, a student at Loyola University in Baltimore. Patrick disappeared on Wednesday, and the other three went missing on Friday.

Source/Bucks County District Attorney's Office

Clockwise from top left: Jimi Tar Patrick, Thomas Charles Meo, Dean Andrew Finocchiaro and Mark Richard Sturgis.

In an interview Tuesday evening, Susan Coleman said she and her husband were in their backyard when they heard four separate rounds of shotgun fire coming from the general direction of the DiNardo property.

Coleman said she has heard the occasional gunfire from hunters in the area over the years.

But this was different, she said.

"It was extremely disturbing gunshot fire," she said, estimating that she heard as many as a dozen gunshots in the first round of fire. "It was violent. This person was going bananas."

Keith Coleman said he was sure that they had heard the firing of a shotgun.

"I’m familiar with a pistol, a rifle. And shotguns, they’re a blast," he said.

"We're pretty dang sure that what we heard is what we heard," his wife added.

All in all, they said they heard four sets of gunfire in a span of about 15 minutes.

The Solebury Township Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.

Coleman described the shots heard by the couple on Facebook around 1 a.m. Sunday.

In a separate comment on the social media site, and while speaking about it on Tuesday, she said she feels guilty for not calling police immediately on Saturday afternoon.

Coleman said that on Sunday, she contacted a police dispatcher who said a police officer would be in touch. She never did hear back from police, she said, but she drove out to the scene later in the day and told an officer there what she had heard. She said she was later contacted by a detective at the Bucks County District Attorney's Office who had seen her Facebook posts.

Asked if the four missing men could still be alive, District Attorney Weintraub said, "I think it's very important to hang on to hope."

The FBI, state police and at least five local law enforcement agencies were also taking part in the search.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.