Kratz’s defense argues DiNardo manipulated him; prosecutors say it was planned

Jim Melwert
November 06, 2019 - 1:34 pm
Sean Kratz

Bucks County District Attorney's Office


DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — More than two years after the manhunt for four missing men in Bucks County captivated the nation, one of the men charged with three of those murders is on trial in Doylestown. 

Prosecutors call the murders of Tom Meo, Dean Finocchiaro and Mark Sturgis “one of the worst days in Bucks County history,” but the defense argues it was manipulation at the hands of a psychopath.

Prosecutor Kate Kohler walked jurors step-by-step through the events of July 7, 2017 on that Solebury farm. She said the murders that day were planned out ahead of time, as Sean Kratz spent the July Fourth weekend with his cousin, Cosmo DiNardo, in Ventnor.

DiNardo pleaded guilty in May 2018 to those three murders, plus the murder of Jimi Patrick.

Kohler said there were multiple times where Kratz could have called for help that day, or even turned the gun on DiNardo. She added that the two cousins killed the men simply because it was “just something fun to do that day because they could.”

But in opening statements, Kratz’s lawyer, Charles Peruto, argued Kratz has an IQ of 79, and at the time weighed only 118 pounds. He was poor kid from Northeast Philly, he added, in the grips of his rich cousin from Bensalem and New Hope.

According to Peruto, it was DiNardo who executed the killings. Peruto recounted the day, disputing the prosecution’s claim that Kratz fired the first shot. After DiNardo shot one of the men in the head, Peruto said he turned to Kratz and told him they’re now in this together. DiNardo then told Kratz that if he said anything, DiNardo would kill Kratz’s family, then him. 

Peruto also said that at one point, DiNardo asked Kratz to borrow his phone, during which he checked the call log and texts to make sure he hadn’t called for help.

If convicted, Kratz will face the death penalty. In May 2018, he backed out of a plea deal to third-degree murder, which would have put him in prison for 59 to 118 years. 

As part of that plea, he gave a confession, but Peruto said he was coerced into giving the confession on bad advice from a previous attorney. Peruto claims Kratz was pressured into saying he shot one of the men, even though he says there’s no evidence Kratz fired the weapon.

DiNardo went through with his plea and is currently serving four consecutive life sentences

He is expected to testify during Kratz’s trial. Although unusual for defendants in murder trials to testify, Peruto also indicated that Kratz will take the stand.