The trial of Sean Kratz, cousin of Cosmo DiNardo, began in Doylestown Wednesday morning. Kratz is facing first and second degree murder charges for his alleged involvement in the Solebury Slayings, which killed four young men in July of 2017.
DiNardo pleaded guilty to charges of first degree murder in 2018. He implicated Kratz, 22, as a conspirator and trigger man.
The victims included Jimi Patrick, 19, Dean Finocchiaro, 19, Mark Sturgis, 22, and Tom Meo, 21. However, Kratz is not accused of any role in the killing of Patrick, who DiNardo admitted he killed prior to Kratz’s involvement.
In the first two hours, attorneys representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Kratz gave their opening statements.
While both placed Kratz at the scene of three of the murders, they gave strikingly contrasting perspectives. Deputy District Attorney Mary Kate Kohler stated Kratz helped plan the slayings. But Kratz’s attorney Charles Peruto says Kratz did not kill any of the victims and was instead forced into compliance by a psychopath.
Kohler opened with imagery of a sunny day that ended with a dark and calculated murder spree. She recounted the details of the slayings, telling the jury of the cousin’s movements prior to and after the murders.
Kohler claimed on July 7, 2017, Kratz pulled the trigger on a .357 handgun, killing Finocchiaro. She said Kratz and DiNardo planned the murder in an 18 minute car ride.
“He has accomplished their first goal in their day of killing,” said Kohler “He is the only one to commit a heinous act of violence that day.”
Kohler stated Kratz confessed to detectives he shot Finocchiaro with the weapon. But Peruto says the confession was given at the recommendation of Kratz’s former attorney Craig Pengalse.
Pengalse made headlines when he leaked video police interviews of Kratz’s confession to the media. Peruto took issue with how Pengalse handled the case.
“The lawyer’s a scumbag,” Peruto told the jury of Penglase. He said there was no reason any attorney would tell Kratz to confess, citing a lack of evidence. Peruto implied Pengalse was using the case for his own career purposes.
“I’m a Philadlephia lawyer, there’s no way a Bucks County lawyer could try this case. I need to expose what goes on here.”
But Kohler noted Kratz never attempted to contact authorities, even days after the murders. Kratz also never took action to stop DiNardo, even according to his defense attorney.
Peruto told the jury this is because Kratz was terrified of DiNardo, who was a “lunatic.” He cited Kratz’s weight at the time of the incident and low intelligence.
“Nobody is asking what you would do in that situation because you were not in that situation. You might not have an IQ of 79, you might not be 118 pounds, you might not be dealing with a psychopath.”
Yet even for Peruto, it seems the case hinges on whether the jury believes both DiNardo and Kratz. On April 25, 2018, Kratz met with detectives. His attorney Penglase was present.
In interviews with detectives, Kratz admits to shooting and killing Fran, admits he knew Meo and Sturgis would be murdered, and admits to pretending to be a drug dealer to lure victims to the farm.
“You will decided what happened on one of the most horrific days in Bucks County history,” Kohler said.
Witness testimony began Wednesday as well, which is estimated to continue for about a week. DiNardo is serving four life sentences. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Kratz.