In 2017, the news in my part of Pennsylvania was buzzing with the disappearances of four young men from Bucks County. One by one, these young men — kids, really — vanished from the face of the earth, and their families and the police struggled to connect the disappearances.
It would eventually emerge that the men were connected by one person with a long history of mental illness, police run-ins, and unsettling behavior, who, over the course of about ten days, carried out a reign of terror that would haunt Bucks County forever.
The First Sign of Trouble
Bucks County is not a small area. In 2010, it was home to 625,249 people, making it the fourth most-populous county in Pennsylvania, according to Wikipedia. Big cities including Philadelphia are nearby, but the violent crime rate in Bucks County is low — 9.6 on a scale of 100, with the national average being 22.7. 
Like any county, there are areas that are safer than others, but overall, it was a decent place to live. It’s the kind of place where the disappearance and murder of four people in a span of days would make headlines and strike fear in the hearts of locals and rattle nerves for years to come.
On July 5, 2017, Jimi Patrick was a 19-year-old living with his grandparents in Newtown Township.  He was home for the summer from his freshman year at Loyola University Maryland, where he was a business major.
Jimi was no dummy. He was attending university on a scholarship package totaling more than $50,000 a year. He worked full-time and had a brilliant future ahead of him.
On the evening of July 5th, Jimi told his grandmother, Sharon Patrick, that he was going out to get a bite to eat. He wouldn’t be gone long, he told her. The two exchanged “I love you’s” and hugs, and Jimi hugged his grandfather, Rich Patrick, in the garage before leaving.
Rich and Sharon didn’t know their grandson was also on his way to buy a bit of weed.
Jimi walked outside and hopped into a silver pickup truck belonging to Cosmo DiNardo.
At 2 a.m., Sharon opened her grandson’s bedroom door and was surprised to find that he wasn’t in his bed. She texted Jimi but got no response.
The next day, she reported him missing.
Investigators pinged Jimi’s cellphone and the signal hit off cell towers in Springfield, Delaware County. But why? Surely, Jimi hadn’t planned to go that far for a “quick” bite.
Rich drove to the area where his grandson’s cellphone pinged, spoke to police, handed out fliers, and searched everywhere he could think of looking for Jimi.
But Jimi Patrick was already dead and buried 40 miles away on a farm in Solebury. The town was just 12 miles from where the Patricks lived, and the farm was owned by the family of 20-year-old Cosmo DiNardo.
After picking Jimi up in his truck the night before, DiNardo drove him to the family farm, where Jimi was supposed to buy four pounds of cannabis from DiNardo for $8,000.  But when the two reached the remote area, Jimi informed him that he only had $800.
DiNardo told Jimi he’d be willing to work out a deal with him. Instead of selling him weed, DiNardo offered to sell Jimi a shotgun for $800. Jimi agreed, and DiNardo handed him the gun, then pulled out a .22-caliber rifle and shot Jimi with it, killing him.
After murdering Jimi, DiNardo drove a backhoe to the location of Jimi’s body, dug a hole, and buried the aspiring businessman six feet deep in the ground.
It was the beginning of a horrific murder spree that would make national headlines.
The Descent of Cosmo DiNardo
Cosmo DiNardo had serious mental health issues. There is an unfortunate stigma attached to mental illness and many believe that mental illness is firmly linked to violence.
It is, to a point, but not in the way most people think. Yes, some conditions, if left untreated, raise the possibility of violent behavior. Overwhelmingly, however, people who are mentally ill are no more likely to become violent than a healthy person. In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to become victims of violent crime, especially if they are not taking their medication as prescribed.
DiNardo, though… he drew the short end of the stick. Call him evil if you must, but he was not entirely in control of his own behavior, and as you will see, his family jumped through numerous hoops to try and get him help. It’s impossible to defend his actions, but how much control he had over his actions is indeed questionable.
Since November 2016, DiNardo had been seeing a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania who specialized in evaluating and treating young people dealing with the initial onset of mental illness. DiNardo was being treated for bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia.
For a time, DiNardo took a cocktail of anti-psychotic drugs and had been committed to a mental hospital more than once.
Over the course of five months, DiNardo was hospitalized three times. 
In fact, 2016 was a brutal year for the DiNardo family because of Cosmo DiNardo’s struggles. DiNardo’s behavior was becoming increasingly violent and he was in and out of psychiatric hospitals. When he went through a manic cycle, he seemed to develop superhuman strength.
He sometimes attacked members of his own family, including his mother. He refused to eat her cooking because he believed she was trying to poison him. He was not a young man that could be reasoned with.
Cosmo DiNardo was so troubled that his mother took him to see 10 different psychiatrists and even called in a priest to perform an exorcism in the family’s home before DiNardo began his killing spree.
Things started to go downhill for DiNardo in 2015. That year, he broke up with a girlfriend and was unable to fulfill his dream of becoming a Navy Seal. He was diagnosed with major depressive disorder in early 2016.
In May of 2016, DiNardo was in a severe ATV crash on the family’s farm that temporarily left him in a wheelchair.  He also suffered head injuries, including injuries to the frontal lobe of his brain. The frontal lobe is responsible for personality, reason, and judgment, as well as impulse control and other things.  Damage to the frontal lobe can cause difficulty in all these areas of a person’s life.
To add insult to injury (no pun intended), DiNardo’s injuries were not treated immediately because he was stranded in the woods for a day-and-a-half until he was discovered.
Within a month of the accident, DiNardo’s mother saw drastic changes in her son’s behavior. He started using synthetic marijuana, sometimes known on the street as K2 or Spice. 
Smoking real cannabis will relax you, mellow you out, and often make you tired. It makes some people highly anxious, but many people actually use it to treat anxiety.
Synthetic weed has the opposite effect. First of all, unlike real cannabis, K2 can kill you.  It’s not at all uncommon for people to die after using Spice.
But perhaps the most unsettling aspect of Spice is the effect it can have on a person’s behavior. Agitation and anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, and psychosis can make users extremely violent.
Smoking K2 was likely the gasoline that caused DiNardo’s explosive actions.
By Christmas 2016, DiNardo’s mother was begging his psychiatrist for help because he feared her son would kill her. 
Oddly, DiNardo’s mother said her son’s mental health seemed to be improving in the month before the murders.
But DiNardo’s most recent psychiatrist ended up becoming the defendant in a lawsuit filed by DiNardo’s mother because, shortly before the murders, he had allowed her son to stop taking his medication.
The truly sad thing is that DiNardo’s life held great promise before mental illness and his brain injury stole that from him. He’d been a straight-A student who worked hard for his family’s businesses. He played football in high school and earned a scholarship to Arcadia University.
Not only did he want to be a Navy Seal, but he dreamed of becoming an orthodontist.
But when DiNardo’s ship started sinking, bad influences would cause it to take on more water than it could handle.
DiNardo’s Parter in Crime
The DiNardo’s were an all-American family. They owned and operated a successful concrete construction business, as well as a snow removal business.  They were wealthy and in 2005, the DiNardo family purchased the farm in New Hope where Jimi Patrick would eventually be killed.
The DiNardo’s were not the types to hoard their wealth while ignoring the needs of the community. The family built a dialysis clinic and a short-term residential center for adolescents in Philadelphia.
But every family has a black sheep, and in the DiNardo family, there were two: Cosmo and Sean Kratz.
Kratz was DiNardo’s cousin, also 20 years old. Before the onset of DiNardo’s murder spree, Kratz’s mother called DiNardo’s mother to find out if Kratz, who lived in nearby Ambler, could start hanging out with DiNardo, who lamented the fact that he had no friends. It had been years since the two cousins had seen each other.
Why ask for input from DiNardo’s mother? Cousins hang out all the time, after all.
The problem was that Kratz was troubled, too. He was investigated in an attempted murder in Philadelphia involving a shooting that left one man permanently confined to a wheelchair. Kratz himself was recovering from an unsolved drive-by shooting in which he was riddled with 19 bullets and walked with a limp as a result of the attack, which was believed to be retaliatory.
Sandra DiNardo was unaware of her nephew’s dark history, however. Moreover, she was unaware that Kratz had been involuntarily committed by his mother for eight days the previous September for “violent tendencies and threats.”
Court records show that in September 2016, Kratz flashed a gun at his nine-year-old brother, threatening to “blow his brains out.” He also threatened his sister.
There could be no worse combination than DiNardo and Kratz, but the two started hanging out together and their mothers hoped that they would support one another and keep each other out of trouble.
In a text to Kratz’s mother in which the two discussed their boys’ lack of friendships, DiNardo’s mother wrote:
“We just need to make sure they don’t get in trouble together because Cosmo has no more sense of fear or what’s right or wrong.”
The Deaths Continue
Dean Finocchiaro was a troubled young man.
At one point, Finocchiaro tried to buy a TEC9 from DiNardo, but backed out of the transaction when the weapon misfired. He bought and sold drugs and like DiNardo, he suffered from mental health issues and had at one point checked himself into a mental health facility as an inpatient.
Like Jimi Patrick, Finocchiaro wanted to buy cannabis from DiNardo.  DiNardo agreed to sell Finocchiaro a quarter-pound of weed for $700, but DiNardo and Kratz had a better idea.
First, DiNardo picked up Kratz and the two decided that rather than sell weed to Finocchiaro, they would rob him. DiNardo handed Kratz his mother’s Smith & Wesson .357 handgun and the two cousins set off to pick up Finocchiaro.
Finocchiaro was last seen at about 6:30 p.m. on July 7 climbing into an unidentified vehicle.
DiNardo and Kratz drove Finocchiaro to the DiNardo farm, where DiNardo shot and killed Finochiarro in a barn. DiNardo never denied shooting Finocchiaro but claimed that Kratz shot him first.
Then, DiNardo wrapped Finocchiaro’s body in a blue tarp and used a backhoe to place him in a metal tank referred to by the DiNardo family as the “pig roaster.”
Tom Meo and Mark Sturgis
Unlike Patrick and Finocchiaro, Tom Meo was not known for being a troubled kid.
By all accounts, he loved his family and very much enjoyed spending time with them.  He was protective of his younger sisters, Gabriella and Faith.
He attended Bensalem High School and went on to attend East Stroudsburg University for a year before taking time off to contemplate his future. When he died, he was working two jobs — one in construction, and one at a gas station in Doylestown.
Most of Meo’s free time was spent with his girlfriend or his best friend, Mark Sturgis.
But like many people Meo’s age, and like DiNardo’s other victims, he experimented with cannabis.
Mark Sturgis, described by his family as a big teddy bear with a love of playing the guitar and discussing deep, philosophical issues, worked alongside his father on building projects on a daily basis — sometimes seven days a week.  He was close to his family and had a strong sense of self.
Like Meo, he smoked weed. And when Cosmo DiNardo instructed Meo and Sturgis to come to the family farm so he could sell cannabis to the two men, neither of them had any idea that, just like Jimi Patrick and Dean Finocchiaro, they were walking into an ambush.
DiNardo met up with Meo and Sturgis, who had driven there together, at a parking lot in Peddlers Village, and had them follow him back to the farm and told Meo to park his car there.  DiNardo then drove the two to an adjacent property where Kratz was waiting.
As Meo and Sturgis stepped out of DiNardo’s vehicle, DiNardo shot Meo in the back with a .357 handgun. He then unleashed a barrage of bullets at Sturgis as he attempted to flee the scene.
Sturgis fell to the ground, dead, but Meo was still alive, but he couldn’t move. He lay paralyzed on the ground, screaming for help. Out of ammunition, DiNardo ran over Meo with a backhoe, finally ending his suffering.
DiNardo used the backhoe to scoop up the men’s bodies and dump them into the same “pig roaster” where he had dumped Finochiarro’s body.
The bodies of Finochiarro, Meo, and Sturgis were then drenched in gasoline and lit on fire.  Neither DiNardo nor Kratz bothered to bury the remains and simply left the property.
Digging up the Truth
It took some time, but the police eventually figured out that the common denominator in the four men’s disappearances was Cosmo DiNardo.
Pings off of cell towers led police to Finochiarro’s phone, which was still turned on and found on the DiNardos’ farm.  The police also discovered Tom Meo’s car parked on the adjacent property.
DiNardo and Kratz had a thirst for blood but lacked the forethought to plan how they would cover up their crimes.
Soon the area was filled with searchers, cadaver dogs, and a helicopter took to the sky in search of the four missing men.
One of DiNardo’s friends told the police that DiNardo had tried to sell him Meo’s Nissan Maxima, directly tying DiNardo to Meo’s disappearance. 
The search continued for several days until authorities finally found the crude gravesite of Finochiarro, Meo, and Sturgis.
Throughout the search, Cosmo DiNardo was less than forthcoming with his parents, who continually asked him why the police were searching the family farm.  He kept telling them he had no idea what was going on and after the police arrested him, his parents initially refused to believe their son had killed anyone.
When DiNardo finally came clean about the murders, his parents were shocked and horrified.
A friend of DiNardo’s who had known him for six years told investigators he could tell that DiNardo was off his medication.
Those who knew DiNardo all agreed on one thing: DiNardo had been a sweet, responsible, intelligent kid who wouldn’t have been capable of harming a fly before his ATV accident. Now, however, he was a completely different person.
Spilling the Truth
Cosmo DiNardo was first arrested for an unrelated firearms charge and his bail was set at $1 million.  DiNardo’s father, Tony, was able to free his son by paying just 10%, or $100,000.
The second arrest was in direct connection to the four missing men of Bucks County.  This time, the charges were for theft of a vehicle and receiving stolen property.
DiNardo’s bail was set at $5 million this time — an amount higher than Buckingham Township District Judge Maggie Snow had ever set before. The bail was set outrageously high because Snow believed, and rightfully so, that DiNardo was a dangerous person and his family’s wealth would have made it easy for him to flee.
During interrogation, DiNardo told the police that he decided to “whack” Jimi Patrick because he had seen a Glock in Jimi’s backpack.  He decided to shoot Patrick before Patrick had the chance to shoot him, so he “put two in the back of his head.”
The rifle used to kill Patrick had been reported stolen a year or two previously from North Carolina. DiNardo’s parents told investigators they had no idea how the gun wound up in their son’s hands.
DiNardo went on to tell the police that Kratz shot Finochiarro in the head several times with Sandra DiNardo’s .357. After Finochiarro fell to the ground, Cosmo shot him two more times in the head and seemed to enjoy reminiscing about the event.
DiNardo told the police:
“His head was split the hell open. Half his brain was in the barn.”
DiNardo’s shot to Tom Meo’s back struck Meo’s spine, DiNardo told the police, paralyzing him. Upon seeing Meo get shot, Sturgis attempted to flee but DiNardo shot him, too.
Meo was on the ground, screaming, “I can’t feel my legs!” But DiNardo was out of ammo, so he crushed Meo with the backhoe.
And as the bodies of Finochiarro, Meo, and Sturgis burned inside of the pig roaster, DiNardo and Kratz casually hopped in the car and ordered cheesesteaks for themselves.
DiNardo told the police:
“I didn’t eat mine. I just did something so gruesome. I didn’t have the appetite.”
The following day, July 8, DiNardo and Kratz returned to the property to dig a 12-foot grave for the three men, using the same backhoe that DiNardo had used to kill Meo.
DiNardo’s mental illness was on full display during his interrogation. In his manic state, he giggled and made small talk with the police officers and his attorneys. But it seemed that DiNardo grasped the gravity of the situation when he broke down in sobs.
“I don’t know why I did this shit, man. I threw my life away for nothing. My life is done, for nothing.”
Kratz, too, was arrested.  When questioned, he claimed that DiNardo had done all of the killings, saying he never shot anyone.
Kratz directed the police to a home in Upper Dublin Township, where the police found the .357 Magnum used in the killings and the Intratec TEC-9.
DiNardo was facing four criminal homicide charges, and Kratz was facing three.
Both defendants pleaded not guilty and were ordered to be held without bail.
Mounting a Defense
The question was not if Cosmo DiNardo killed Jimi Patrick, Dean Finochiarro, Tom Meo, and Mark Sturgis. The question was whether DiNardo, a man with serious mental health issues and a brain injury, could be held criminally responsible for the killings.
However, DiNardo’s attorneys determined that they could not mount an insanity defense following a mental health evaluation. 
In May 2018, Cosmo DiNardo pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree murder, several counts of robbery, conspiracy, and abuse of a corpse. Under a plea deal, DiNardo was given four consecutive life terms.
During his sentencing hearing, DiNardo said:
“I want the families to know I’m sorry. If there is anything I could do to take it back, I would. I cannot come to terms with what occurred. I’m so sorry.”
Sean Kratz initially accepted a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for 59 years, but at the last minute, he rejected the deal and the case went to trial. As a result, prosecutors decided to seek the death penalty.
In defending Kratz, his attorney painted a picture of a dim-witted young man who could be talked into anything…literally.
During his trial, Kratz told the court that he and DiNardo killed Patrick, Finochiarro, Meo, and Sturgis for fun.  They were bored and it was something they could do for free.
Kratz’s attorney told jurors during opening statements that Kratz was a “meek” person who feared DiNardo, and he was “not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.”
In truth, Kratz was a sketchy, violent guy long before he teamed up with his cousin, whether he was intelligent or not. His friendship with DiNardo only fanned the flames of an already raging fire.
Remember, 10 months before Kratz and DiNardo went on their murder spree, Kratz flashed a gun at his brother, age 9, and told him he would “blow his brains out.” 
In the end, Kratz’s assertion that most of the blame lay squarely on DiNardo’s shoulders, and his attorney’s assertion that Kratz was a dummy, fell flat. Police played a confession tape during Kratz’s trial in which he admitted to killing one of the men, Finochiarro, at the urging of DiNardo.
In November 2019, Kratz was convicted of first- and second-degree murder in the death of Finochiarro and voluntary manslaughter of Meo and Sturgis.  He was sentenced to life in prison plus an additional 18 to 36 years for the other killings and crimes.
During a press conference, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said:
“He was an utter and miserable failure. The defendant had so many opportunities not only to extricate himself from this awful, heinous, diabolical plan to snuff the life of three boys he didn’t even know, he could have saved them, but he chose to think only of himself.”
Unlike DiNardo, Kratz never apologized to the victims’ families in court.
Cosmo DiNardo and Sean Kratz carried out the gruesome murders all on their own. DiNardo came up with the idea and Kratz helped him carry it out. But in the aftermath of the killings and subsequent trials, the families of the victims decided that DiNardo’s parents were partly responsible for what happened to their loved ones.
While the DiNardo family made valiant efforts to get help for their son, the families of Cosmo DiNardo’s victims claimed in the lawsuit that is still ongoing that his family failed to prevent him from accessing firearms on their property, despite knowing about his violent tendencies. 
The lawyer for Jimi Patrick’s grandparents stated that the DiNardos “failed in their lawful duty to protect others from possible harm at the hands of their violent, mentally ill son.” 
DiNardo’s mother, Sandra, claims that after her son was committed for the first time in July 2016, the family removed all of the guns from the home except for her .357. 
“I don’t know how [Cosmo] knew my gun was there.”
The sad thing is, she likely kept it around to protect herself from her child.
In May 2020, a Philadelphia Common Pleas judge dismissed a petition filed on behalf of DiNardo’s parents to dismiss the lawsuit. 
The DiNardo’s were also forced to face another chilling reality: It’s possible their son wanted to kill them.
Earlier on the evening of July 7, Tony DiNardo, Cosmo’s father, pulled into the driveway at the family farm but quickly left when he noticed some sort of commotion going on at the property.  He was with his mistress at the time and didn’t want to get caught in her company.
According to cellphone records, DiNardo called his father three times that night, at one point telling him to “come alone.”
Was he planning to kill his own father? And if he’d killed his father, would he have felt that he had to kill his mother? The rest of the family? No wonder Sandra kept a gun hidden in the house.
Also in May 2020, now behind bars, DiNardo went off his meds again. He became manic and got into a brawl with his cellmate. He was placed in solitary confinement where he covered the cell’s only window with a towel. He was instructed to remove the towel, but he refused. Corrections officers charged the cell and a fight broke out.
The brouhaha landed DiNardo in the prison hospital with a broken nose, an injured jaw, and a probable concussion.
Tony and Sandra DiNardo lost a son long before the murders and long before they watched guards escort him out of the courtroom to start his life sentence. Perhaps they could have — should have — done more to protect society from their boy. Nobody wants to believe their child could do something as deranged as killing four people.
The real victims are Jimi Patrick, Tom Meo, Dean Finochiarro, and Mark Sturgis, but the tale of Cosmo DiNardo’s descent into madness highlights the very real mental health crisis facing the United States. Finding help is usually difficult and finding the right help is sometimes impossible.
We can do better, and we must.