UPDATED: 4:12 p.m., Monday:
It was the third Monday in a row that the Bucks County Justice Center’s fourth floor was packed due to Sean Kratz. And for now, it will be the last.
The 22-year-old Philadelphia man was order to spend life in state prison with a consecutive 18 to 36 year sentence by Bucks County Judge Jeffrey Finley. The judge also sentenced Kratz to pay more than $35,000 in restitution.
Kratz will immediately be sent to a state correctional institution for classification and placement.
In a surprise decision Monday morning, the district attorney’s office, which had vowed to seek the death penalty for Kratz, ended up yanking the option and instead sending Kratz to prison for life without parole. The decision, according to District Attorney Matt Weintraub, was made after talking to the families of the victims.
Last Friday, Kratz was found guilty by a jury of shooting Dean Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown, in the head in a rustic barn on his cousin Cosmo DiNardo’s family farm in Solebury in July 2017. Prosecutors said Kratz additionally was the lookout while his cousin, DiNardo, 22, of Bensalem, murdered Thomas Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township, and Mark Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg, Montgomery County. The three men’s bodies were later burned and buried in a 14-foot-deep pit near a cornfield on the farm.
After roughly 18 hours of deliberations, the jury found Kratz guilty last Friday of first- and second- degree murder for the death of Finocchiaro, voluntary manslaughter for Meo and Sturgis, and abuse of a corpse for all three victims. The jury also found him guilty of robbery relating to Finocchiaro and possession of an instrument of crime and possession of a weapon.
Weintraub said the decision to pull the death penalty came between Friday and Monday. It involved “interpreting what that verdict meant” and speaking to the families “at length.” He said the families were in consensus but support was not unanimous.
With the first- and second-degree murder conviction, Finocchiaro’s death was the only one the death penalty was applicable and his parents and brother were on board, Weintraub said.
The decision from prosecutors came, in part, due to prison phone calls where Kratz boasted about the notoriety that would come with a death sentence.
“Now he doesn’t get to be notorious. He will forever remain anonymous,” Weintraub said. “He will not be a political martyr for the death penalty argument … he will go down in history as an afterthought.”
The district attorney said Kratz “can’t claim one victory,” noting a previous deal last year offered Kratz 59 to 118 years in state prison.
“This is the right thing to do in this case,” Weintraub said.
The trial, Weintraub said, was painful for the families.
“The grace that has been shown by the families … has allowed all of us to do our jobs the way we have over the last two-and-a-half years,” said First Assistant District Attorney Gregg Shore, who lead the prosecution along with Deputy District Attorney Kate Kohler.
“This is not a happy day in my practice … I will continue to fight for Sean Kratz on appeal,” said defense attorney Charles Peruto, who represented Kratz along with Julieanne Bateman and Niels Eriksen
In court, Kratz – dressed in an orange jumpsuit and shackles – stood before Finley as the judge read the sentence against him. His mother and friends and family watched while many of the relatives of the victims stared at him.
“Nothing I say today will bring healing to these individuals. That’s impossible for me to do,” the judge said.
Finley looked directly at Kratz as he stated the young man could have contacted authorities, removed himself from the situation, and pointed the gun he was carrying at DiNardo and made him stop before the murders.
“You had the ability to control what happened. You had the source of death in your hand,” he said.
The judge chided Kratz for not appearing to show remorse or empathy throughout the trial.
“You haven’t seen the pain, the impact, the harm your actions have caused,” he said.
The family of the three young men killed with Kratz’s involvement read their victim impact statements before the court.
James Fratanduono, Tom Meo’s uncle, told court he sees the impact of his nephew’s murder all the time. He said he spent through his 401K seeking treatment.
Melissa Meo, Tom Meo’s son, called Kratz’s a piece of excrement for what he had been involved with along with DiNardo.
Mark Potash, Mark Sturgis’ father, told the court his son’s death has “broken me beyond repair.” He recalled the memories of his son, who worked for his contracting business, and his personality.
“I hope you get raped and beaten to death in prison,” Potash said to Kratz.
Sturgis’ mom, Aimee King, said Kratz has left her missing her son at a time she should have been “joyously planning to celebrate his birthday.”
“Dean was just a boy beginning to become a young man before his life was taken,” Bonnie Finocchiaro said.
She recalled how Oreos were once a staple in their house and his son could easily make a meal of them. However, since Dean Finocchiaro’s death, the family no longer purchases them.
“When you lose a child, you lose yourself,” she said.
The Finocchiaros no longer celebrate Christmas at their home since their son died.
“There is an emptiness that doesn’t go away,” Anthony Finocchiaro said.
In court, Peruto said he his “extremely sorry” for the families losses. He also said Vanessa Amodei is an “honorable person,” which was met with some chuckles from the victims’ families.
Amodei declined to comment to reporters after court.
The jurors were released after the death penalty was removed from the case Monday morning. The majority of jurors stayed in the courtroom through the sentencing. One juror left after being dismissed and declined to comment about the case to a reporter.
DiNardo pleaded guilty to four life sentences last year for the deaths of the three men and Jimi Patrick, 19, of Newtown Township.
Previous coverage of Sean Kratz’s trial:
- Jury Finds Sean Kratz Guilty Of Most Serious Charges
- Man In Court Tells Kratz: ‘You’re Going To Burn In Hell’
- Jury Decides Fate Of Sean Kratz
- Jury To Begin Deliberations After Closing Statements In Sean Kratz Trial
- Cosmo DiNardo Refuses To Testify Against Sean Kratz
- In Video Interview, Sean Kratz Said Cosmo DiNardo Was ‘Raging’ Day Of Murders
- Sean Kratz’s Attorney Says Client Was ‘Idiot’ Who Was Afraid Of Cosmo DiNardo
Sean Kratz will die in prison, but not at the hands of the state.
In a surprise move Monday, prosecutors took the death penalty off the table and agreed to send Kratz to a state correctional institution for life.
The death penalty phase was expected to last several days.
On Friday, Kratz, 22, of Philadelphia, was found guilty of shooting Dean Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown, in the head inside a barn on his cousin Cosmo DiNardo’s family farm in Solebury in July 2017. He also allegedly acted as the lookout while his cousin, Cosmo DiNardo, 22, of Bensalem, murdered Thomas Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township, and Mark Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg, Montgomery County. The young men’s bodies were later burned and buried in a 14-foot-deep pit.
He was found guilty of first- and second- degree murder for the death of Finocchiaro, manslaughter for Meo and Sturgis and abuse of a corpse for all three victims. The jury also found him guilty of robbery relating to Finocchiaro and possession of an instrument of crime and possession of a weapon.
Last year, Kratz backed out of a plea deal with prosecutors that would have sent him to state prison for 59 to 118 years.
Kratz’s cousin, DiNardo, 22, of Bensalem, accepted a deal in 2018 and received four life sentences in prison for the murders of Finocchiaro, Meo, Sturgis, and Jimi Patrick, 19, of Newtown Township. Patrick was killed by DiNardo on the farm days before the other three men.