By David DeKok
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) – One of two Pennsylvania men charged in the killings of four young men lured to a farm with the promise of marijuana was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder, while the other suspect rejected a plea deal.
Shackled and wearing an orange jump suit in a Doylestown, Pennsylvania, courtroom, Cosmo DiNardo apologized to the families of the four victims, three of whom authorities said were shot dead and burned in a pig roaster by DiNardo and his cousin, Sean Kratz.
“I just want the poor families to know, I am so sorry,” DiNardo, 21, said in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas. “If there is anything I could do to take back what happened, I would do it.”
But Judge Jeffrey Finley sentenced DiNardo to four consecutive life terms, calling his apology “false and insincere” in light of his taped description of his crimes.
“After committing these offenses, you two went out and had a cheese steak and then went on as if nothing had occurred,” Finley said.
DiNardo confessed to murder to avoid the death penalty, according to Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub. He entered a not-guilty plea in December, but later changed it to guilty as part of a deal with prosecutors.
In addition to first-degree murder, DiNardo pleaded guilty to robbery, abuse of corpse, and possession of instruments of crime.
Kratz, 21, of Philadelphia, on Wednesday rejected an offer from prosecutors to plead guilty to one count of 3rd degree murder in return for a sentence of 59 to 118 years in prison. Prosecutors said they will put Kratz on trial for first degree murder and seek the death penalty.
The state has not executed anyone in nearly 20 years and in 2015 Democratic Governor Tom Wolf placed a moratorium on all executions because of questionable prosecutions in the past.
The bodies of three victims – Dean Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown Township; Mark Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg; and Thomas Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township – were found in a common grave at DiNardo’s family’s farm in Solebury Township in July 2017.
DiNardo later led authorities to the nearby buried body of the fourth victim, Jimi Patrick, 19, of Newtown. DiNardo was charged with killing Patrick, but Kratz was not.
All four victims were shot after being lured to the farm last July with the belief that DiNardo would sell them marijuana, according to court documents.
The families of the victims have filed wrongful death lawsuits against DiNardo’s parents and their construction company, saying he should not have had access to guns because of prior mental health issues.
(Writing by Peter Szekely; Editing by Paul Simao and Grant McCool)