Susan Coleman and her husband were enjoying a quiet afternoon in the pool last week when their bucolic stretch of Pennsylvania reverberated with gunfire.
“It was just too many shots all at once — very disturbing,” said Coleman, who’s still unsure who fired those shots. “It was overkill. You’d pulverize a deer with the kind of shots that we heard.”
The serenity of affluent Solebury Township has been shattered by the week-long investigation into the murders of four missing young men who authorities say were lured to a remote farm in northern Bucks County with the promise of a marijuana deal.
On that isolated farm, the four men were shot, one of them was run over with a backhoe, three of the bodies were burned in a pig roaster, and the four were buried in makeshift graves on the sprawling property.
Two cousins, Cosmo Dinardo, 20, and Sean Kratz, also 20, were arrested and are charged in the killings. The bodies were found on land owned by Dinardo’s parents, according to court documents.
Dinardo has been charged with all four homicides. Kratz, 20, was charged with killing three of the men.
And the fate of the victims — Jimi Taro Patrick, 19, Dean Finocchiaro, 19, Thomas Meo, 21, and Mark Sturgis, 22 — has stunned communities better known for picturesque landscapes, quaint dining and shopping spots and getaways for reclusive artists and celebrities.
“It makes me feel like things are different here from when I grew up,” said Jess Beadling, 22, a waitress at the Station Tap House in Doylestown.
“It’s not bad. It’s just not the same. There’s not much to do here anymore. The whole situation is shocking. We’re waiting for a Netflix series to come out from it.”
A sign outside the restaurant read, “Our Hearts go out to the four families.”
‘Things that shouldn’t happen in Sleepy Hollow’
Coleman, who has two sons and a daughter about the same age as the victims, can’t help but think that she may have heard the shots that took life.
She feels some guilt about not immediately calling the police, she said. She was eventually contacted by a detective from the district attorney’s office.
Her family moved to Solebury Township from New Jersey in 2002, she said. Her home is next to the farm where the young men were killed.
“My husband and I both come from Princeton,” she said. “It’s a lot more congested there and we wanted to be away from that and pay less taxes than New Jersey but we wanted to be close by. So to escape to this little enclave here and … we just feel very unsettled right now.”
In recent years, Coleman said, drug use among young people has become more prevalent.
“It’s just unsettling things that shouldn’t happen in Sleepy Hollow like this,” she said.
Coleman said that after hearing about the missing young men she called police to report the gunshots and yelling she had heard days earlier.
A police dispatcher took down the information and said an officer would get back to her. But no one followed up, she said. She later drove to a spot near the search scene and walked up to a cop.
“Did anybody mention that I called? He said, no. It’s like ‘Mayberry R.F.D.’ here,” she said with a chuckle, recalling the late 1960s television comedy series. “He took my name, number and my information.”
‘Did your boys know those boys?’
On Thursday, when Dinardo’s lawyer revealed his client had confessed to involvement in the deaths, about 100 residents and reporters gathered at a shopping mall a few miles from the search area to await updates on the investigation.
“We wanted to be supportive and comforting for our community,” resident Wyatt McLeod said.
For days, dozens of law enforcement officers searched the farmland. Tents were set up across the property. Investigators used large machinery to dig for evidence. Helicopters hovered overhead and traffic clogged surrounding roads. Cadaver dogs eventually led authorities to the bodies.
Residents left flower bouquets outside the farmland in memory of the victims.
Dawn Cerbellino, a Bucks County resident and mother of two, said friends and relatives have been calling all week to ask, “Did your boys know those boys?”
That the deaths involved alleged drug deals did not surprise her, Cerbellino said.
“Kids have money around here,” she said. “Money breeds other problems.”
Patrick, one of the victims, graduated in 2016 from Holy Ghost Preparatory School, and Dinardo, one of the suspects, graduated from there the previous year, school spokesman Bill Doherty said.
“There are no words that can adequately express our sorrow over the loss of Jimi Patrick,” Doherty said in a statement. “We extend our heartfelt sympathies to Jimi’s family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the families affected by this tragic event.”
Residents have been shaken by the grisly details of the murders.
On July 5, Dinardo agreed to sell Patrick four pounds of marijuana for $8,000, according to the criminal complaint. Dinardo picked up Patrick and brought him back to the farm.
When they arrived, Patrick disclosed he only had $800. Dinardo agreed to sell him a shotgun instead. Dinardo then took him to a remote part of the property, gave him a shotgun before fatally shooing him with a .22-caliber rifle, the complaint said.
Dinardo allegedly used a backhoe to dig a 6-foot-deep hole and bury Patrick, investigators said.
‘Sobering and sad’
On July 7, Dinardo agreed to sell a quarter-pound of marijuana to Finocchiaro, according to court documents. Dinardo picked up Kratz, his cousin, and the two drove to Finocchiaro’s house and planned to rob him.
The three of them drove back to Dinardo’s property. According to the complaint, Dinardo told investigators that once they were af the farm, Kratz shot Finocchiaro in the head with a handgun that belonged to Dinardo’s mother. Kratz, however, told police that Dinardo was the one who shot Finocchiaro.
They then placed Finocchiaro’s body in a metal tank that Dinardo referred to as the pig roaster, the complaint said.
Dinardo agreed to sell marijuana to Thomas Meo that same night, and he picked up Meo and his friend Mark Sturgis and drove them back to his property, the complaint states.
He told police he shot Meo in the back when they got out of the car. Meo fell to the ground screaming. Dinardo shot Sturgis as he started to run away, the complaint states.
Dinardo then drove the backhoe over Meo and “basically crushes him,” Kratz told police, according to the complaint. Dinardo allegedly used the backhoe to lift their bodies up and drop them in the metal tank with Finocchiaro’s body, according to the complaint.
He allegedly poured gasoline into the tank and lit it, the complaint said. Dinardo and Kratz returned to the property the next afternoon and used the backhoe to dig a hole and bury Finocchiaro, Meo and Sturgis.
“People are really very much disoriented and in shock and asking, Is this actually the end of the world?” said Father Paschal Onunwa, parish vicar of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Doylestown. “They’re not used to this kind of tragedy.”
At Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Monsignor Joseph Gentili said his congregation will be praying for those directly and remotely touched by the deaths.
“Not sure I can respond to the impact at this point … but I am sure it will be quite sobering and sad,” he said.