Prosecutors, defense debate Sean Kratz’s role in brutal 2017 Bucks County murders

Pennsylvania State Police officers walk up a driveway, Friday, July 14, 2017, in Solebury, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Pennsylvania State Police officers walk up a driveway, Friday, July 14, 2017, in Solebury, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Sean Kratz shot and killed Dean Finocchiaro inside a Bucks County barn, watched his cousin murder two other young men, then helped burn and bury the bodies before grabbing cheesesteaks at a nearby sandwich shop, prosecutors said Wednesday. 

“This was a day of killing. A day of murder,” said Assistant District Attorney Kate Kohler during her opening statement in Kratz’s triple-homicide trial, which got underway in Doylestown Wednesday morning.

Kohler said the brutal slayings on July 7, 2017, were cold-blooded, senseless, and planned, with Kratz, 22, playing an active role.

All three men — Finocchiaro, Tom Meo, and Mark Sturgis — were allegedly lured to a 100-acre farm in Solebury Township under the guise of a marijuana drug deal. 

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

They never left, said Kohler, because Kratz and his cousin, Cosmo DiNardo, decided murdering and robbing them would be a “fun thing to do.”

“It wasn’t for revenge,” she said. 

A. Charles Peruto, Kratz’s lawyer, didn’t dispute that Finocchiaro, Meo, and Sturgis were murdered, but he argued all three would have died that night whether his client was there or not. And that DiNardo, Kratz’s “lunatic” cousin, threatened his client and his family if he failed to follow his directions or told anyone about the murders.

“Every second he spent with Cosmo DiNardo, he knew could be his last,” Peruto said. 

Prosecutors charged Kratz with three counts of first-degree murder, as well as taking part in efforts to destroy and hide the bodies afterward.

Kratz and DiNardo are accused of stuffing their victims into a pig roaster, then burning the bodies before burying them in a 14-feet deep hole created by a backhoe.

DiNardo confessed to killing a fourth victim, Jimi Patrick, three days before the murders of the other three men. DiNardo is currently serving four life sentences after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in May 2018.

Kratz, who was also expected to take a plea deal last year, had a last-minute change of heart.

Surprising even his own lawyer, he rejected the deal crafted with prosecutors, sending his case toward trial.

At a press conference that day, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub announced plans to seek the death penalty if Kratz is convicted.

During a pretrial hearing on Monday, defense attorney Charles Peruto said Kratz will testify in his own defense. DiNardo could testify, too.

The prosecution and defense attorneys are under a gag order and barred from speaking to the press during the trial.

Separately, three of the victims’ families have filed a civil lawsuit against the DiNardo family, for failing to anticipate and stop their son’s murderous rampage.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal