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In taped confession, Sean Kratz admits role in Bucks County killings

Kratz told county detectives he shot Dean Finnochiaro in the head at his cousin Cosmo DiNardo's urging.

Police guard the driveway to the DiNardo family's farm in Solebury Township during the investigation into four murders there in 2017. Sean Kratz, one of the suspects in the case, confessed to killing one of the victims in a taped confession.
Police guard the driveway to the DiNardo family's farm in Solebury Township during the investigation into four murders there in 2017. Sean Kratz, one of the suspects in the case, confessed to killing one of the victims in a taped confession.Read moreCLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

Cosmo DiNardo walked out of his family’s barn in Solebury Township on a humid July evening with a gun in his hand. He walked up to his cousin Sean Kratz, slung an arm over his shoulder, and asked him a haunting question.

“What’s the matter?” he asked. “You’ve never seen a dead body before?”

That was the account Kratz gave to detectives in a recorded interview in April 2018. The recording was publicly revealed Friday when it was played at Kratz’s murder trial in the July 2017 deaths of three Bucks County men.

His recorded comments marked the first time jurors got a clear and unambiguous account of what he said happened. Kratz’s previous statements to detectives were constantly changing under pressure.

But on the recording, the 22-year-old admitted for the first time that he shot Dean Finocchiaro , 22, in the head as he had his back to him. The killing was part of a plot, masterminded by DiNardo, to rob Finocchiaro; Thomas Meo, 21; and Mark Sturgis, 19, under the guise of a marijuana transaction.

Kratz admitted on the recording that there was no marijuana; DiNardo, 22, had created the false impression that he was a middleman in a distribution chain, receiving mass quantities of the drug from a supplier named Carlos.

Kratz’s attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., has maintained that his client acted under duress, forced by DiNardo to participate in the shootings. DiNardo confessed and is serving four consecutive life sentences for the three victims he killed with Kratz and Jimi Patrick, a 19-year-old he shot to death earlier.

The confession came when Kratz was represented by another attorney, Craig Penglase, and was preparing to plead guilty to third-degree murder. Kratz unexpectedly refused that plea last year and Penglase leaked the video to television reporters.

Penglase was removed from the case and Kratz opted for a jury trial in Doylestown.

Initially, there was an indication that DiNardo would testify in his cousin’s trial. But prosecutors revealed Friday that DiNardo rejected their subpoena and refused to get on the bus meant to transport him to Doylestown from State Correctional Institution Retreat. It was unclear how prosecutors planned to respond to DiNardo’s refusal.

In the statement played Friday, Kratz said he was supposed to take Finocchiaro into the woods on an ATV, pretending the two were going on a quick ride before the drug transaction. DiNardo supplied Kratz with the gun, a .357 magnum revolver.

In the woods, Kratz said, he lost his nerve.

“He wanted me to rob him in the woods and shoot him, but I couldn’t do it,” Kratz said.

Instead, the two returned to the farm’s barn, where DiNardo grew angry and aggressive, according to Kratz. When Finocchiaro turned his back, DiNardo goaded his cousin into shooting him, cocking his index finger like a gun.

Kratz aimed the revolver, closed his eyes, and fired. Finocchiaro collapsed, shot in the head. DiNardo grabbed the gun from Kratz and fired a second shot into him as he lay on the ground.

DiNardo chastised his cousin for reacting nervously to the murder, calling him by an obscenity for not helping him dispose of Finocchiaro’s body.

He took $700 and a cell phone before loading Finocchiaro’s body into a converted pig roaster, according to prosecutors. DiNardo then left Kratz on the property to pick up Meo and Sturgis, there for similar transactions. Meo planned to pay $2,000 for two pounds of marijuana, according to Kratz.

Instead, DiNardo shot the two from behind minutes after they stepped out of DiNardo’s truck. Meo survived the bullet but was paralyzed from a gunshot wound to his back. DiNardo then crushed him with a backhoe after trying to shoot him with a .22 caliber rifle, according to Kratz.

After the carnage, DiNardo buried the three bodies in a makeshift grave along with the pig roaster, authorities said.

Then he and Kratz went for cheesesteaks at Steve’s Prince of Steaks in Northeast Philadelphia.

Days later, when Kratz was interviewed by county detectives for the first time, he lied.

He later began to tell the truth — but only about the location of the murder weapon — and only after his mother, Vanessa Amodei, came into the interrogation room.

She told her son to ignore his instincts of protecting his family and provide information that might incriminate DiNardo.

“There are four boys who are gone. ... There’s nothing anyone can do to bring them back,” she said, as recorded in a separate video played in court earlier. “They have sick families right now. They deserve to know all of what happened.”

But a full accounting of that day in Solebury Township wouldn’t be revealed until nearly a year later.