Being lured into the woods by a deranged individual with the promise of a drug dealer is the stuff of which horror movies are made. This is exactly what Cosmo DiNardo did in real life, turning the lives of his four victims and their families into a nightmare. The drugs were never delivered. They never existed. The sole purpose of these meetings was senseless bloodthirst, and ended in cold-hearted disaster.
Recent years have been rough for the DiNardo family as they fought to manage 25-year-old Cosmo DiNardo’s budding mental illness. Things seemed to be looking up when his symptoms appeared to go into remission. However, the evil that brewed beneath the surface even as DiNardo was extricated from the medication was enough to shock the whole of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, into stunned silence.
Brilliant Childhood and Youth of Cosmo DiNardo
Mental illness is a frightening diagnosis. According to Ralph Cipriano’s article for Philadelphia Magazine, 25-year-old Cosmo DiNardo’s parents, Tony and Sandra DiNardo, were supportive when their son was faced with such challenges. From securing psychiatric care to bailing DiNardo out of jail, they did their best to get him the help he needed.
The DiNardos were upstanding parents who wanted the best for their four kids, who appeared to have been set up for success in life. “MY SON was supposed to be the mayor of this town,” his father is recorded to have said. “He was going places. Everybody loved him.” His neighbors also praised the young man: “Cosmo DiNardo is the kind of kid who would always say hello, and he would grab your groceries out of your hand and walk you to your car,” one is recorded to have remarked.
Apart from these glowing character references, DiNardo was known as a straight-A student and had expressed interest in becoming an orthodontist. He’d even been awarded a scholarship to Acadia University, making his path and future appear bright.
Psychological Illness of Cosmo DiNardo
However, the troubles bubbling beneath the surface had a real chance of becoming a hindrance.
DiNardo demonstrated violence against his family and spent time in multiple psychiatric facilities to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. During his most dangerous moments, it’s said that he seemed to possess “manic superpower strength,” causing his mother to feel constantly on edge.
It was at this time that he was prescribed antidepressants. However, the drugs worsened things, launching DiNardo into an even deeper depression when he gained 100 pounds and “blew up like a house.” She said that when he wasn’t manic, he would foam at the mouth and tremble. “His eyes just pierced right through me like there’s no emotion,” she recalled.
Apart from these disturbing facts about the DiNardo family’s son, they appeared to be a ‘normal’ bunch. They owned their own construction business and a sprawling farm in New Hope. The land sequestered away from the bustle of the suburbs they lived, proving an excellent spot for family getaways. Folks were drawn to the chance to hunt deer and ride ATVs providing a country-centered departure from everyday life. The whole family acquired the skills necessary to maintain the property, including running backhoes and shooting a gun.
Though vital on the frontier-style land, these life skills would prove to be DiNardo’s undoing and a fatal end to those caught in the crossfire.
DiNardo’s dangerous and psychotic behavior made the precautions regarding his freedom understandable. According to Michael Tanenbaum of Philly Voice, apart from being placed in mental health facilities, he’d been banned from Holy Ghost Prep and Arcadia University in Glenside and was forbidden gun ownership.
However, Philadelphia Magazine records that the routine appointments with his doctor, Christian Kohler, yielded favorable results. Being in remission is generally good news.
But appearances can be deceiving. Little did anyone know, DiNardo had already been involved in a murderous feat before being released from medication. While in the waiting room for his July appointment, he researched grisly ‘inspiration’ for his next act of violence.
Philly Voice said a chance meeting in Peddler’s Village provided DiNardo with his next victims. Twenty-one-year-old Thomas Meo and 22-year-old Mark Sturgis were successfully lured to the remote DiNardo property with the promise of being sold Marijuana. DiNardo enlisted the assistance of his cousin, Sean Kratz, to get the job done. Meo left his car in a shed but failed to bring his diabetes kit evidence that he believed he would return. Neither he nor Sturgis would.
Once DiNardo and Kratz had Meo and Sturgis securely sequestered in the wilderness, DiNardo shot Meo in the back, causing instant paralysis. “I shoot Tom in the back, drop him,” he told police in NBC 10 news coverage. “Mark’s like, ‘What the?’ He was such a big kid. I unloaded the gun on him.”
This ‘unloading’ of DiNardo’s gun stolen from his mom killed Sturgis, but Meo was still alive. According to Philadelphia Magazine, in another cold-blooded act of brutality, the murderer proceeded to use the backhoe his parents had taught him how to handle to run over the screaming Meo, ending his life. The diabolical murderer had worked up an appetite and deserted the crime scene in pursuit of a cheesesteak.
Not having had enough violence for even a week, DiNardo and Kratz proceeded to entice a third man the very next day. The Philly Voice records that 19-year-old Dean Finocchiaro became the next victim, lured by the promise of drugs. According to NBC 10, DiNardo coerced his cousin to play a more active role. Kratz was reluctant and said he closed his eyes as he aimed the gun at Finocchiaro before firing at his cousin’s command.
With three bodies to deal with, Philadelphia Magazine reports that DiNardo drenched the bodies in gasoline. He then proceeded to utilize yet a third resource to which his parents had given him access, a pig roaster, to cremate his victims. He then buried their remains on the property, using the backhoe again.
The sloppy and senseless murders drew attention from authorities. When the unsolved murder of one Jimi Taro Patrick was found to be connected to those of DiNardo’s latest victims, the realization added fuel to the fire. NBC 10 records that DiNardo met Patrick while still being actively treated for mental illness. The pair rode quads in the woods together. It was during this recreational activity that a drug deal was arranged.
However, a debate arose when Patrick failed to provide the requested cash amount. DiNardo relayed the tenor of the conversation to the police, providing context for the circumstances leading up to his first murder: “I said ‘ok, well let me see, you know, the $8000, let me see the money.’ So, I count the money, and there’s $800 there. So I look at him like, ‘yo, bud, like… what… Ha Ha Hee Hee, you know, this is not a joke.’” As DiNardo insisted that this was nothing to laugh at, the drugs were nonexistent, rendering the basis for the transaction completely phony.
In fact, according to Philadelphia Magazine, DiNardo had researched ‘The Soup Maker Cartel’ on his iPad while waiting in the doctor’s office just before his final three murders, a chilling testament to the premeditation of his homicidal acts.
The Disturbed Struggle of a Cosmo DiNardo
In police interviews supplied by News 10, DiNardo relays the blood-curdling details of the murders with seemingly detached calm. He is recorded calmly, explaining where to find the bodies, using a hand-drawn map for reference. Cosmo directs the police to the joint grave of his three latest victims. He then points to the hole he dug for Patrick.
His voice is cold and calculating as if the deaths haven’t affected him. However, additional audio recordings contradict his seemingly detached state. At one point during his confession, he broke down. This presented an eerie foil to the coolness with which he confessed direct or indirect responsibility for the other murders. “Threw my life away for nothing,” he said through tears and harsh sobs that rendered his words almost inaudible.
Still, tears wouldn’t bring back the dead or undo an atrocity; these four homicides were no exception. The realization that DiNardo had no apparent personal connection to his victims left horrified on-lookers with the unsatisfying knowledge that this was a “senseless tragedy.”
The Backlash for Cosmo DiNardo
Eyes turned to the psychiatrist, who had declared that DiNardo was in remission—according to Philadelphia Magazine, Tony and Sandra DiNardo filed malpractice suits against Kohler and the University of Pennsylvania Health System. Sandra claimed that DiNardo’s doctor knew fully about her son’s instability and his familiarity with suicidal and homicidal thought patterns.
DiNardo’s parents were next to undergo speculation. In 2017 and 2018, the families of the murderer’s victims voiced their belief that Sandra and Tony were partly responsible for their son’s violence. They blamed them for giving DiNardo access to hardware that turned into murder weapons and giving him the know-how to operate them. Sandra rebuffed the blame. She had sought help from 10 different psychiatrists and even a priest searching for a turnaround for her son.
Philadelphia residents were left amazed at the murders played out by one of their own. NBC 10 records the solemn words of Bucks County Deputy District Attorney Mary Kate Kohler at Kratz’s trial. She states, “It was one of the most horrific days in Bucks County history.”
It wouldn’t have been surprising if the families of DiNardo’s four victims had withheld forgiveness. However, a bitter-sweet exchange on the day Sandra and Tony were called to testify provided reason to believe. Some semblance of reconciliation was present. Philadelphia Magazine records that after taking the stand, Sandra passed the mothers of the four victims. She issued a soft “I’m so sorry” through her tears. Finocchiaro’s mother reportedly replied with a simple “Thank you.” Patrick’s grandmother went so far as to send her a wink and a thumbs-up. The responses were big-hearted, to say the least, expressions of sympathy from one grieving woman to another. They’d all lost their boys, some to death and others to life-long incarceration.