Key figure in Bucks disappearance spoke of having people killed, acquaintance says
The description is one of the most detailed accounts of the 20-year-old man who appears to be at the center of a mystery that has gripped Bucks County and beyond.
The Bensalem man whom Bucks County authorities have called "a person of interest" in the disappearance of four men sold guns and marijuana, and once bragged about having someone killed over a debt, according to a friend of one of the missing men.
Eric Beitz, 20, of Bensalem, said Wednesday that he and his friends had hung out often in recent weeks with Cosmo DiNardo, and said DiNardo came off as agreeable on the surface but routinely sold firearms, spoke about killing people, and seemed to have "ulterior motives."
"I can tell you on multiple different occasions, on multiple different accounts, from multiple different people, including myself – Cosmo has spoken about weird things like killing people and having people killed," Beitz said. "Everybody you talk to about this guy, you hear he's mentally unstable."
As they moved Wednesday to keep DiNardo behind bars, prosecutors used similar language, describing him as "dangerous" and saying he had previously been involuntarily committed.
Beitz said he believes he was the last person to see his close friend Thomas C. Meo, 21, of Plumstead, before the man disappeared on Friday evening.
Also missing are Mark R. Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg, and Jimi Tar Patrick, 19, of Newtown. The body of Dean A. Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown, was identified Wednesday night, having been buried in a deep grave on a farm in Solebury Township where other remains were found.
The disappearances have gripped Bucks County and beyond, bringing swarms of law enforcement and packs of reporters to small, wealthy Solebury.
Throughout the week, investigators have publicly asked for tips as to what links the four men and DiNardo — and have been tight-lipped about what they have learned. DiNardo and his parents, whose 90-acre tract has become the focus of the search, have declined to speak publicly about the case. In a statement late Wednesday, their lawyer said they are cooperating with the investigation.
Beitz's account, during interviews by phone and outside his Bensalem home, reflected the most detail to date.
He said he and Meo, a talented wrestler, had been friends since grade school. Both graduated from Bensalem High School.
"The most good-hearted, loyal, hard-working young man I've ever met in my life," Beitz said of Meo. "He was a hell of an athlete. … He was my role model as far as that went…. I don't know of any people who didn't like him."
Beitz met Sturgis in 2011. Sturgis and Meo had been friends and worked together.
DiNardo and Patrick both attended Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem. Patrick had just completed his freshman year at Loyola University in Baltimore.
They were also both members of a public Facebook group for buying and selling sneakers. DiNardo appeared to advertise name-brand sneakers on social media. A Flickr account belonging to someone of the same name contains 187 photos of shoes, including Nikes and Air Jordans, many pairs taken with a sign with his name and the date written on it. Some images from 2014 show bullets set up next to the shoes.
DiNardo, who graduated from high school in 2015, had enrolled for a time at Arcadia University to study biology.
He and Finocchiaro appeared to share an interest in ATVs. Both had posted in at least one public Facebook page devoted to buying and selling quad bikes.
According to Beitz, DiNardo also sold marijuana and guns, and aggressively sought new customers. Teens regularly would pass DiNardo's number around, he said.
Beitz said he first met DiNardo when the Bensalem man tried to sell drugs to him and his friends. In time, Beitz said, DiNardo hung out with them weekly.
But they noticed a change in his behavior in recent months, Beitz said. Rumors circulated that it was related to an ATV accident several months ago.
"Something about him just struck me and all my friends, something about him – his behavior was a bit suspicious. It didn't seem like he was so concerned with what he said he was concerned with; as much as you could tell he had ulterior motives," Beitz said. "He's made a lot of scary insinuations in the weeks leading up to this."
Beitz recalled DiNardo's offering to sell another friend a shotgun at their first meeting. He said that DiNardo had bragged about having someone killed because of a dispute over $800, and that DiNardo said he only gave his phone number out to "people who kill people."
He sold "rifles, shotguns, handguns… assault rifles. Whatever he could get his hands on. He would kind of brag about it, too," Beitz said. He said DiNardo routinely sent them photos of himself posing with guns.
Beitz said he knew where Meo was headed Friday night but declined to discuss it. He said he had spoken to detectives about it. (Authorities declined to comment on his account.)
On Wednesday afternoon, DiNardo was arrested for a second time this week, this time on charges of stealing Meo's car on July 7 and attempting to sell it for $500 on July 9. Meo's parents said he was diabetic and could not survive without his diabetes kit, which was found in the car, said District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub.
Officials at Loyola held a prayer service Wednesday for Patrick.
"Please join me in hope and prayer for Jimi's safe return," Donelda A. Cook, vice president of student development, wrote in an email Tuesday to students and faculty.
Beitz noted how quickly things had changed. From a few months ago "up until now, [Cosmo] was one of us almost, kind of," he said. "It's scary to think."
Staff writer Erin McCarthy contributed to this article.