Days after Dean A. Finocchiaro vanished, but before his remains were found in a 12-foot makeshift grave in Solebury Township, Cosmo DiNardo told acquaintances he wasn't worried — and suggested Finocchiaro was on the run from law enforcement, according to texts shared among the men.
"Cosmo isn't your buddy Dean missing," one acquaintance asked in a group message last weekend. "Aren't you worried about buddydead dean," it read.
DiNardo replied: "I mean I know the kid but yeah I feel bad for his parents. He's a pill-popping junky who had 2 duis … He prob just jumped parole Or probation."
One of the participants on Thursday shared the messages — as well as a photo he said DiNardo had sent the group, showing him brandishing what looks to be a revolver – with the Inquirer and Daily News on the condition that he and others in the conversation string not be identified.
He did so hours before DiNardo's lawyer announced DiNardo had confessed in the killings of the four men, in return for a promise by prosecutors that they would not seek the death penalty.
The excerpts, from a series of private Snapchat messages, offered a glimpse into the young men's world, and the questions that began bubbling after the four went missing last week.
Several participants acknowledged that the conversation often amounted to their sharing memes or funny pictures. But DiNardo also on occasion used it to offer to sell them marijuana. The string from last weekend was titled "Tom WYA." Among texters, "WYA" is shorthand for Where You At? One said the person referenced in the title when the chat started was Thomas C. Meo, one of the four missing men. The others were soon mentioned as well.
"Tom where the [expletive] you at?" one message read. "Mark where the [expletive] you at? Dean aka Ryan Smith where the [expletive] you at?"
"Ryan Smith" was a pseudonym that Finocchiaro had used on Snapchat, the participants said. "Mark" referred to Mark R. Sturgis of Pennsburg, who also disappeared Friday.
DiNardo's only response to the WYA question: "Wild."
In his interview with the newspapers, the one participant said he last saw DiNardo days before the message string, in a Wawa parking lot in Bensalem on the afternoon of July 5. That was the same day the first victim, Jimi Taro Patrick of Newtown, went missing.
The man said he had known DiNardo since they were boys and met him to buy marijuana. He said he saw a passenger he didn't know in DiNardo's gray pickup truck that day who looked similar to the photos he has since seen of Finocchiaro, but noted that the passenger had facial hair. (Police photos of Finocchiaro show him clean-shaven.)
The customer said DiNardo pressured him to get in his truck and "talk business," mentioning the possibility of drug dealing. But he said he turned down the proposition several times before the passenger persuaded DiNardo to give it a rest.
Late Wednesday, investigators said that Finocchiaro's remains were among those they found buried 12 feet underground on the Solebury Township farmland owned by DiNardo's parents. They have not publicly confirmed how many other bodies were in the grave, or whose they may be. District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub promised more information at an update late Thursday.
DiNardo's references to Finocchiaro's court troubles stem from a 2016 case in which the 19-year-old from Middletown pleaded guilty to use or possession of drug paraphernalia. In March, he pleaded guilty to other drug charges relating to possession of marijuana and separately to a DUI. He also had two open cases in Bucks County Court: one on charges of assault and harassment and another on a charge of use or possession of drug paraphernalia.
[Warning: The messages displayed below include explicit language.]
John Fioravanti Jr., his lawyer in all the cases, said Thursday that none of the charges against Finocchiaro involved anything relating to the DiNardo family or property. He said Finocchiaro had only one DUI case and there had never been charges relating to stolen bikes, as DiNardo had claimed in one of the texts.
"He was just a normal, growing-up, nice kid," Fioravanti said. "I was very surprised at what happened. Great family, great parents. It's very sad."
DiNardo remained jailed under $5 million bail after being charged Wednesday afternoon with stealing a car belonging to Meo, 21, of Plumstead. He has been missing since Friday. Also last seen that day was Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg, whose vehicle was found near Peddler's Village, a short drive from the DiNardos' Solebury Township property.
In another text excerpt from last weekend, DiNardo complained about trespassers on his family's land. "Yeah well a bunch of people went to my properties and now the cops are waiting to arrest them for trespassing," he wrote.
When pressed for why authorities would be set up at his family's home, DiNardo professed to be at a loss.
"Because no reason for people tone at my place where we don't live," he wrote. "I have no clue bro it's weird people keep hitting me up I have no idea what's up."
The man who spoke with the newspapers did not say whether he has shared his account with police. Bucks County prosecutors have not confirmed such details about the ongoing probe, their biggest in recent years. A review of Facebook shows the customer and DiNardo are friends, though the term isn't literal.
"He's told me and my friends, 'Yeah, I've killed people before, I just haven't been caught,' " the man recalled. "We literally were just like, 'Yeah, all right, Cosmo, sure you did.' … No one actually thinks that someone's capable of this."
Staff writer Justine McDaniel contributed to this article.