What you need to know ahead of Sean Kratz’s trial in the Bucks County killings

Investigators walk up a blocked off drive way, in, Solebury Township, Pa., on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Investigators walk up a blocked off drive way, in, Solebury Township, Pa., on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

In mid-July 2017, investigators were closing in. 

Faced with the prospect of the death penalty, then-20-year-old Cosmo DiNardo led detectives to where he had disposed of the bodies of Jimi Patrick, 19; Dean Finocchiaro, 19; Tom Meo, 21; and Mark Sturgis, 22, on his family’s 90-acre farm in Solebury Township, Bucks County.

He also pointed the finger at his cousin and alleged accomplice, Sean Kratz.

Two years later, DiNardo is serving four consecutive life sentences in prison. Kratz, now 22, is standing trial for homicide.

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The crime

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

His cousin, DiNardo, confessed to killing the first victim, Jimi Patrick, by himself. In tapes leaked to NBC10, DiNardo described proposing to sell Patrick $8,000 worth of marijuana on July 5, 2017. When Patrick showed up with only $800, DiNardo offered to sell him a gun, then shot him. He dug a hole and buried Patrick on the Lower York Road property.

Two days later, DiNardo returned to his family’s land, this time with Kratz. According to Kratz’s leaked confession, the plan was to rob and shoot two other men after arranging a drug deal with them. 

He said when the time came, he closed his eyes and shot his gun, wounding Finocchiaro. DiNardo grabbed the gun and shot Finocchiaro dead.

The men put Finocchiaro’s body in a drum DiNardo referred to as a “pig roaster.”

Later on July 7, Tom Meo and Mark Sturgis arrived at the DiNardo property, ostensibly for another drug deal. Both were shot, and Meo was run over with a backhoe before their bodies were dumped in the same drum and lit on fire.

Kratz and DiNardo destroyed many of the victims’ possessions — but traces remained. Cellphone records for Finocchiaro pointed to the farm, as did Meo’s 1996 Nissan Maxima, discovered less than a mile away.

Almost immediately, national and local law enforcement converged on the farm, scouring for the four men’s graves.

In exchange for not facing the death penalty, DiNardo revealed where he had buried Patrick’s body to investigators.

Aborted justice

In May 2018, both men were expected to take a plea deal. The families of the victims made emotional statements in court, during what they thought would be their chance for closure.

Instead, Kratz had a last-minute change of heart.

Surprising even his own lawyer, he rejected the plea deal crafted with prosecutors, sending his case toward trial. (One of Kratz’s attorneys subsequently admitted sharing the audio of his client’s confession with a reporter.)

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

The trial

After the wall-to-wall media coverage, it was difficult to find jurors who hadn’t already made up their minds. So the court scheduled jury selection weeks ahead of the trial, in September. 

That hurdle cleared, the trial is slated to start at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

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.

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