PHILADELPHIA (CN) – The parents of a young man who was shot, torched and then buried in a mass grave this summer brought civil claims Tuesday against the accused killers.
Mark Sturgis, 22, is believed to have been the last victim of a two-day murder spree that rocked Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in July.
Community members spent a week searching for Sturgis and three other young men before 20-year-old Cosmo DiNardo led police to a mass grave he purportedly dug on his family’s farm along Lower York Road in Solebury Township.
Though DiNardo and his cousin, 20-year-old Sean Kratz, both confessed to the murders in interviews with police on July 13, they pleaded not guilty at their Dec. 13 arraignments.
Represented by the firm Ross Feller Casey, Sturgis’ parents, Mark Potash and Aimee King, named both men and DiNardo’s parents as defendants to a 26-page complaint filed Tuesday in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas.
Cosmo “DiNardo had a troubled recent history, including an involuntary commitment of gun possession and a number of run-ins with police,” Robert Ross, an attorney for Potash and King, explained in an interview.
“But despite all of that,” Ross continued, “he was able to get his hands on a gun owned by his mother.”
Police had actually brought a weapons charge against DiNardo in February, saying he possessed a shotgun and ammunition he was not permitted to have because he has a “mental illness” and had been involuntarily committed to an inpatient treatment facility.
DiNardo is said to have been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The homicide complaints filed in July say DiNardo admitted to killing Sturgis with a Smith and Wesson 357 and then burying him on his parents’ farm along with the bodies of Dean Finocchiaro, 18, of Middletown; and Thomas Meo, 21, of Plumstead.
The body of Jimi Patrick, 19, of Newtown, was buried separately away from the farm.
In the days before those graves were found, Sturgis attracted police attention by trying to sell Meo’s 1996 Nissan Maxima for $500.
Prosecutors have reportedly agreed to spare DiNrado the death penalty if he changes his plea to guilty.
Ross, the attorney for Sturgis’ parents, notes that the criminal proceedings are unrelated to the civil case.
The Sturgis family is “heartbroken, and hoping to gain all damages allowable, as in any wrongful-death case,” Ross added.
Alleging negligent entrustment, the parents say Sturgis was killed with a gun registered to DiNardo’s mother, and that the couple should have secured the weapon since they knew of their son’s history of mental illness and violence.
“It is negligent to allow someone like Cosmo DiNardo to have access to that gun, and any other gun in these killings,” Ross said in an interview. “They also had access to secluded farm property where he made use of equipment including a backhoe, that was used in other murders, and the tank he used … the one he called a ‘pig roaster.’”
DiNardo’s use of the pig roaster is recounted in the criminal complaints, which say he filled it with gasoline and fired it up after putting the bodies of Finocchiaro, Sturgis and Meo inside.
In addition to admitting that the used the farm backhoe as a grave digger, DiNardo told police he drove the backhoe over Meo’s body.
DiNardo is represented in the criminal case by Fortunato Perri Jr., of the Law Offices of McMonagle, Perri, McHugh & Mischak.
Perri has not returned a request for comment, nor has Kratz’s attorney, Craig Penglase of Penglase & Benson in Doylestown.
George Bochetto, an attorney with Bochetto & Lentz who is representing DiNardo’s parents, also did not return a request for comment.