DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (CN) – In a Philadelphia suburb town rocked by the gruesome murders last year of four residents, 21-year-old Cosmo Dinardo was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to the carnage.
DiNardo and his cousin Sean Kratz were both charged last summer after police found a mass grave on the 92-acre farm where DiNardo lives with his parents along Lower York Road in Solebury Township.
The grave contained the remains of three men whose disappearances sparked alarm a week earlier: Mark Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg; Tom Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township; and Dean Finocchiaro, 18, of Middletown Township. About a half-mile away from the farm, DiNardo led police to a second grave site where he had buried the fourth missing man, Jimi Tar Patrick, 19, of Newtown Township.
DiNardo and Kratz both confessed to the murders in interviews with police but pleaded not guilty at their Dec. 13 arraignments.
Attorneys for DiNardo said in court this morning that he pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty.
Months before the murder spree, police had brought a weapons charge against DiNardo for possession of a shotgun and ammunition that he was barred from owning because he had been involuntarily committed to an inpatient treatment facility for a mental illness. DiNardo is said to have been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
He has been held without bail, as has Kratz, who he identified in his plea as a co-conspirator.
Kratz, also 21, faces a pretrial hearing Wednesday afternoon where he is expected to plead guilty.
DiNardo is represented by Fortunato Perri Jr., with the Philadelphia firm McMonagle, Perri, McHugh & Mischak. Perri has not returned a request for comment. His firm represented Bill Cosby in his first criminal trial, which ended in a mistrial. Cosby retained Hollywood attorney Tom Mesereau for the retrial, which ended in a conviction.
Kratz is represented by a local Bucks County criminal defense attorney Niels Eriksen Jr., who also has not returned a request for comment.
DiNardo pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree murder, conspiracy, robbery and abuse of a corpse.
DiNardo and Kratz both tied the killings last year to three separate drug deals gone bad.
All of the men were shot and buried. Meo, Sturgis and Meo’s bodies were first crushed with a backhoe and then lit on fire in what DiNardo referred to as a “pig roaster.
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub had noted last year that the “attempt to burn the bodies … was not successful.”
DiNardo and Kratz also face civil suits from the victims’ parents.
Judge Jeffrey L. Finley reportedly rebuked DiNardo this morning for what he took as an insincere apology.
“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, according to philly.com. “To you, human lives are disposable. They have no value.
Family members of the victims sobbed loudly in court as prosecutors detailed the killings.