Sean Michael Kratz, 20, confessed to his involvement in three killings, including St. Anselm alumnus Thomas C. Meo’s.
Like the rest of the nation and beyond, Northeast Philadelphians were riveted to news reports early last week chronicling the investigation into the suspicious disappearances of four young men in Bucks County, including one who grew up in Parkwood and attended grade school there.
But as the missing persons case transitioned into an around-the-clock homicide investigation spearheaded by the county’s District Attorney and involving the FBI, the news hit closer to home than most Northeast folks could’ve imagined.
On Thursday, authorities arrested one of the alleged serial killers at his family’s home in Lawndale. Sean Michael Kratz, 20, of the 800 block of Magee Ave., then confessed that he took part in the murders of three of the four victims, including St. Anselm alumnus Thomas C. Meo, according to criminal complaints prepared by Bucks detectives.
Kratz’s cousin and co-conspirator, Cosmo DiNardo, 20, of Bensalem, lured all four slaying victims to his parents’ 90-acre property in rural Solebury Township with the promise of selling them large quantities of marijuana, according to statements by both defendants.
DiNardo was acting alone on July 5 when he admittedly drove Jimi T. Patrick, 19, of Newtown, to his parents’ farm, offered to sell him four pounds of marijuana and a shotgun and shot him fatally with a 22-caliber rifle. DiNardo retrieved a nearby backhoe and buried Patrick in a remote area of the property, according to his confession.
Two days later, DiNardo and Kratz admittedly conspired to rob Dean A. Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown Township. The cousins picked up Finocchiaro at his home, offered to sell him four ounces of marijuana and brought him to the Solebury property. In statements to police, DiNardo claimed that Kratz used a .357 revolver to shoot Finocchiaro in the head, but Kratz claimed that DiNardo used the same weapon to shoot Finocchiaro. The defendants both said they disposed of Finocchiaro’s body in an old oil tank that had been converted into a meat cooker.
Later on July 7, DiNardo admittedly met Meo and his longtime friend, Mark R. Sturgis, at Peddler’s Village about two miles from the Solebury property and offered to sell them four ounces of marijuana. Meo drove himself and Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg, Montgomery County, to DiNardo’s family property, where Kratz was waiting. DiNardo then used the same revolver and perhaps a .22-caliber rifle to shoot Meo and Sturgis fatally.
According to both defendants, DiNardo used the same backhoe to load both victims into the old oil tank, where they burned the bodies. The defendants left the property overnight, returning on July 8 when they admittedly buried the tank at the bottom of a 12-foot pit.
Over the ensuing weekend relatives reported the four victims missing. A cell phone signal from one of them reportedly led investigators to the Solebury property where they found Meo’s car parked inside a garage with his diabetic kit inside and the keys and title nearby. Later, a tipster told police that DiNardo had tried to sell him Meo’s car on July 8.
With DiNardo in custody, searchers found three of the victims’ remains on the Solebury property with the assistance of cadaver dogs. DiNardo then confessed to all four murders as the DA agreed not to pursue the death penalty against him. DiNardo directed investigators to Patrick’s burial site and implicated Kratz in the other three slayings.
Philadelphia police played a vital role in the investigation, assisting in the search for the bodies and tracking down leads. Detectives in the Northeast visited three properties belonging to DiNardo’s father Antonio, a concrete contractor with real estate holdings on the 4400 block of Castor Avenue, the 1100 block of Adams Avenue and a nearby block of Unity Street in Lower Frankford. Antonio DiNardo has not been implicated in the case.
Viewings for Meo, who graduated from Bensalem High School, will be held at Burns Funeral Home, 9708 Frankford Ave., on Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Thursday from 8 to 9 a.m. The funeral will follow at St. Anselm. A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist his family with expenses. As of Tuesday, it had raised more than $17,000 toward a $25,000 goal. ••