Man pleads guilty, sentenced to life for killing 4 young men

PHILADELPHIA — Nearly a year after the bodies of four young men were found buried on a Bucks County, Pa., farm, the man accused of luring them there with a promise to sell them marijuana pleaded guilty Wednesday to their murders.

Cosmo DiNardo, 21, of Bensalem, will spend his life in prison for the murders, a crime that transfixed the region and attracted national attention in July as investigators spent days searching his parents’ sprawling Solebury Township farm property for the missing men.

He appeared Wednesday morning in a Doylestown courtroom, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and standing alongside his lawyers. Families of the murder victims — Thomas C. Meo, Mark P. Sturgis, Dean A. Finocchiaro and Jimi Patrick — also filled several rows of the courtroom. Some sobbed loudly as a prosecutor read the facts of the case.

DiNardo showed little emotion as he pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree murder. He also pleaded guilty to charges of robbery, abuse of corpse, possession of an instrument of crime and possession of a weapon.

“I just want the poor families to know that I am so sorry and that if there was anything I could do to take back what occurred on those days, I would,” he said.

But Judge Jeffrey L. Finley told him his words sounded insincere and false.

“I have no doubt in my mind that should the day ever come that you should find yourself released into community and had an opportunity to kill again, you would do it,” the judge said. “To you, human lives are disposable. They have no value.”

Finley sentenced DiNardo to four consecutive life terms, one for each killing.

The victims’ relatives also unleashed messages of pain and anger.

Mark Sturgis’ mom said the pain has not subsided.

“My heartache transcends language itself,” Aimee King said, reading her statement to the judge. “How do I describe emotional pain so strong, so intense, so all-consuming that it manifests as actual physical pain?”

The guilty plea upheld a deal DiNardo made with prosecutors last summer, as they found the first three bodies on his parent’s remote property. Each had been shot and buried. He confessed to the murders and told investigators where to find Patrick’s body in exchange for a promise that he would not face the death penalty.

As part of his deal with prosecutors, DiNardo identified his cousin Sean Kratz, 21, of Philadelphia, as a co-conspirator in three of the murders.

Kratz is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Wednesday afternoon. Prosecutors have declined to say if that, too, could include a plea. But Kratz’s lawyer, Niels Eriksen Jr., said the hearing should be the final proceeding in the case.

Kratz and DiNardo were both charged with killing Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township; Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg; and Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown Township. DiNardo was believed to have first killed Patrick, 19, of Newtown Township.

The two were charged after the four men went missing in early July, prompting the multi-day search that ended on the 90-acre farm that belongs to DiNardo’s parents. Three victims were found in a 12 [1/2]-foot grave; Patrick was buried elsewhere on the property.

Prosecutors had reserved the right to seek the death penalty against both men.

Kratz had described the murders to police when he was arrested — telling them it was a “massacre.”

The families of all four victims have filed wrongful death lawsuits, blaming not only DiNardo and Kratz but also DiNardo’s parents, Sandra and Antonio.

One attorney said the elder DiNardos gave their son a “playland for illegal acts.” Prior to the killings, DiNardo had documented mental health issues, which included an involuntary commitment and banishment from two local schools. Bensalem Police said officers had encountered DiNardo 40 times, 14 of which came in the year before the killings.

Two mental health professionals have examined DiNardo in the past several months and determined that he would have been unable to use a criminal insanity defense, his lawyer said during Wednesday’s hearing.

 

 

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