In a surprise decision Monday, Bucks County prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty for Sean Kratz, convicted of killing three young men on a remote farm in one of the most violent crimes in the county’s history.
District Attorney Matthew Weintraub, who initially vowed to see Kratz sentenced to death, said the decision was made after close consultation with the parents of the victims, killed during a botched robbery in July 2017.
“Now he doesn’t get to be notorious,” Weintraub said. “He will forever remain anonymous, and not be a political martyr for the death penalty argument.”
He added, “He will not become a cause celebre. He will go down in history as an afterthought.”
Kratz, 22, was sentenced instead to life in prison without parole in the death of 22-year-old Dean Finocchiaro. Bucks County Judge Jeffrey L. Finley added a total of 18 to 36 years in the slayings of Thomas Meo, 21, and Mark Sturgis, 19, and other crimes, including abuse of corpse, robbery, conspiracy, and weapons charges.
After a weeklong trial in Doylestown, a jury of seven men and five women on Friday found Kratz guilty of first-degree murder and related charges in the death of Finocchiaro, whom he shot in the head. They also found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Meo and Sturgis, who were killed by Kratz’s cousin Cosmo DiNardo on his family’s Solebury Township farm while Kratz acted as a lookout.
Kratz’s attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., said after Monday’s sentencing that it was “not a happy day” and that he would continue to fight for Kratz on appeal.
Weintraub, speaking to reporters Monday in Doylestown after a gag order in the case was lifted, explained that Finocchiaro’s parents weren’t interested in pursuing the death penalty, saying that if they “granted the defendant his life, by [their] grace, he doesn’t get to win.”
Weintraub said he supported the decision, especially after listening to Kratz bragging on prison phone calls about being “notorious” and his plans to fight the death penalty for years to come.
Another factor in his decision not to pursue the death penalty, the district attorney said, was that Kratz was convicted of only one count of first-degree murder, with the jury finding that his role in the other deaths amounted to voluntary manslaughter.
DiNardo, 22, lured the three men to his family’s farm under the pretense of a drug deal, then, with Kratz’s help, killed them and buried them in a 12-foot hole after trying to burn their bodies in a pig roaster.
Earlier, DiNardo killed a fourth man, 19-year-old Jimi Patrick. He pleaded guilty to the four deaths last year and is serving four life sentences in state prison for his crimes.
Kratz initially intended to plead to third-degree murder, but reneged at the last minute, stunning prosecutors and his defense attorney. Weintraub noted Monday that had Kratz gone through with that plea, he would have faced 59½ years in prison.
At sentencing, Finley chastised Kratz for “only thinking about himself” and showing no remorse during the trial.
“I sit here this morning and hear the impact on these families, the impact of the harm you have put them through. I see the pain on their faces,” the judge said. “You, sitting there vacant, haven’t really seen that. You haven’t seen the pain, the impact, the harm your actions have caused.”
The judge’s comments seemed to echo the tearful statements read by the victims’ relatives. Their testimony was filled with rage and grief, with some calling Kratz a “monster” on par with his cousin.
Sturgis’ father, Mark Potash, said he hoped Kratz would be attacked in prison. Meo’s uncle James Fratanduono said the bills for his therapy for dealing with the loss were so high, he had depleted his retirement fund.
Finocchiaro’s mother, Bonnie, implored Finley to hand down a fair sentence, but admitted that no amount of punishment would be enough.