A jailed man who has been the focus of an investigation into the disappearances of four men — including a Loyola University Maryland student — admitted Thursday that he killed them and agreed to plead guilty to four murder counts, his attorney said.
Cosmo DiNardo, 20, confessed to the commission of or participation in four killings, attorney Paul Lang said outside the Doylestown, Pa., courthouse, 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 DiNardo’s cooperation, Lang said, prosecutors were taking the death penalty off the table. There was no immediate comment from prosecutors.
Authorities found the body of one of the men, 19-year-old Dean Finocchiaro, buried at DiNardo’s parents’ farm in Solebury Township, Pa. The other men missing are 22-year-old Mark Sturgis and 21-year-old Tom Meo, along with Jimi Taro Patrick, a rising sophomore and business major at Loyola University. They were all residents of Bucks County
Earlier Thursday, investigators worked to excavate a 12-foot grave found to conceal human remains on the 90-acre farm. Cadaver dogs led search crews to the spot, where they discovered the body of Finocchiaro buried in the grave, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said.
Police were seen digging Thursday and using plywood to shore up the walls of a tent-covered trench where Weintraub said dogs managed to “smell these poor boys 12 feet below the ground.”
Authorities said additional remains were discovered in the grave, but they have not identified any other bodies.
Patrick lives south of the farm with his grandparents in Newtown, Pa. Sharon and Rich Patrick released a statement Thursday, describing their grandson as a dean’s list student, community volunteer and prep baseball player.
Patrick attended Loyola on a full academic scholarship and was working the summer at a restaurant near his home. He graduated from Holy Ghost Preparatory High School, a Catholic school for boys in Bensalem, Pa., where he played baseball. He is a member of his neighborhood parish in Newtown.
Patrick attended Holy Ghost Preparatory with DiNardo. Patrick was last seen July 5, while the other three vanished July 7.
The Rev. Brian Linnane, Loyola university president, said Wednesday that Patrick finished his freshman year “with distinction.” He was a dean’s list student who had no conduct violations, Linnane said.
About 50 students, faculty and staff gathered Wednesday in the chapel of the Loyola campus in Baltimore to pray for Patrick and the other missing men. Loyola officials declined comment Thursday.
DiNardo was being held on $5 million cash bail after he was charged with trying to sell another victim's car. The car was found on the DiNardo family's property.
Authorities have not revealed any details about how the victims may have died or how they got there. The prosecutor said he thought a backhoe may have been on the property.
At least some of the missing men are friends, but it’s unclear how well they knew DiNardo, if at all.
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. 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.
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 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.
The other missing men, Sturgis and Meo, worked together in construction. 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.
Baltimore Sun reporter Tim Prudente contributed to this article.