The jury in Sean Kratz’s murder trial ended its first day of deliberations in Bucks County Court Wednesday without coming to a verdict. Jurors will return to the Doylestown courtroom Thursday morning in an attempt to reach one.
Kratz is on trial for the murders of Dean Finocchiaro, 19; Tom Meo, 21; and Mark Sturgis, 22, whom prosecutors allege he killed in 2017 with his cousin, Cosmo DiNardo, then buried their bodies on a farm in Solebury.
DiNardo is currently serving four life sentences for the murders of those three men, as well as a fourth, Jimi Patrick, 19.
Jurors deliberated for more than six hours, returning to the courtroom after nearly three hours with a series of questions for the judge, including whether they could convict Kratz of both first- and second-degree murder and whether they could watch a portion of a taped confession in which Kratz discussed the police interrogation with his mother.
The jury watched the video, in which Kratz seems distressed and says he is confused by the judge’s circular questions. His mother tells him, “You need to be as honest and as clear as you can be.”
Kratz’s mother has been in the courtroom throughout the trial, as have the families of the victims.
The jury then deliberated for several hours more before coming back with another set of questions, this time asking for the definition of conspiracy to commit abuse of a corpse, one of the many charges against Kratz, in addition to criminal homicide, conspiracy and robbery.
The case captured national attention two years ago for its gruesomeness and seeming lack of motive. The victims went missing for days, beginning on July 5, 2017, when DiNardo killed Patrick after proposing to sell him $8,000 worth of marijuana. Patrick only had $800, so DiNardo offered to sell him a gun and then shot him. He buried Patrick on his family’s farm in Solebury.
Then on July 7, 2017, DiNardo returned to the farm with Kratz. They lured Finocchiaro there first under the guise of a drug deal. On a leaked confession tape, Kratz said he closed his eyes and shot Finocchiaro, wounding him. DiNardo took the gun and finished the job, killing Finocchiaro. They loaded Finocchiaro’s body into the drum of a pig roaster.
Later that day, the men lured Meo and Sturgis to the farm for another supposed drug deal. DiNardo shot them while Kratz stood watch. DiNardo ran over Meo’s body with a backhoe, and then both bodies were loaded into the pig drum and set on fire.
Authorities traced a signal from Finocchiaro’s cell phone to the DiNardo’s farm on July 8 and found three of the bodies. DiNardo ultimately led them to the fourth, as part of an agreement that he would not face the death penalty.
DiNardo entered a plea deal that Kratz was also supposed to be a part of. But at the last minute, Kratz changed his mind and backed out of the deal, sending his case to trial. Kratz argued his lawyer had bungled the case. His lawyer at the time, Craig Penglase, later admitted to leaking Kratz’s confession tape to the media.
Penglase had been mentioned as a potential defense witness but did not take the stand. Neither did Kratz, whom his lawyer, Charles Peruto, had promised in opening statements would do so. But in a surprise twist Tuesday, the defense rested after calling only DiNardo’s parents and Kratz’s sister.
DiNardo had been subpoenaed to testify in court as a witness for the prosecution but refused to leave his jail cell and testify.
Kratz’s attorneys argued he was an “idiot” who was too afraid of his “lunatic” cousin, DiNardo, to be stopped from committing murder. Judge Jeffrey Finley instructed the jury that duress as a defense applies only when the person was coerced by a threat or use of force and did not knowingly put himself in a position where he could expect to be coerced in such a way.
The jury is scheduled to reconvene Thursday morning to continue deliberations.