Five years later: Looking back at the disappearance, murder of 4 men in Bucks County

It was a crime that had the entire country focused on Bucks County.

The disappearance of four young men in July of 2017 had police officers searching for answers. When they discovered what happened, law enforcement, and the world, was shocked.

Cosmo DiNardo, a Bensalem native, admitted to killing Thomas Meo, 21, Mark Sturgis, 22, Jimi Patrick, 19, and Dean Finocchiaro, 19. DiNardo's cousin Sean Kratz, of Philadelphia, was found guilty of first- and second-degree murder in the death of Finocchiaro and voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Meo and Sturgis.

Meo, Sturgis, Patrick and Finocchiaro were brutally killed and then buried on a farm in Solebury Township owned by DiNardo's parents. It would take days to find their bodies and unravel the twisted killing spree that still leaves investigators asking why.

More:Inside search for 'lost boys of Bucks County' as authorities reflect 5 years after Solebury killings

Both DiNardo and Kratz are serving life sentences for the murders.

Five years after the boys went missing, the Bucks County Courier Times looks back on the case that had the area struggling to make sense of it.

Here is a look back at some key events during the case.

'A piece of us will always be missing’

The families of the victims had their say at the sentencing hearings in the case.

Looking directly at convicted killer Sean Kratz, Melissa Fratanduono-Meo, the mother of one of his victims, said, “Everything you took is no longer what you have the right to receive. There is no justice, but punishment must be served ...

“You call your cousin a monster. Yes, he’s a sick monster, but you’re an evil monster.”

Moments after victims’ families shared statements with the court, Kratz, 22, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 19-year-old Dean Finocchiaro.

Kratz sentenced:Kratz sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Dean Finocchiaro

Cosmo DiNardo, left, and Sean Kratz [file]
Cosmo DiNardo, left, and Sean Kratz [file]

Solebury slayings: A timeline

The case started with separate missing person reports. One would lead authorities to the DiNardo family farm in Solebury. In those early days, new developments, new leads and information kept investigators busy as they desperately searched for the boys and tried to piece together the case. Cosmo DiNardo and his cousin Sean Kratz would ultimately be arrested and charged.

DiNardo pleaded guilty and is serving four life sentences in state prison. Kratz was convicted at trial and sentenced to life in prison.

Here is a look at the timeline of events:

As it happened:A look at the headlines from the start of the case until the end

Jimi Patrick's grandparents Rich and Sharon Patrick, and Tom Meo's mother Melissa Fratanduono-Meo, listen as Shira Goodman, director of CeaseFire PA, speaks during a 2018 press conference. [ART GENTILE / FILE]
Jimi Patrick's grandparents Rich and Sharon Patrick, and Tom Meo's mother Melissa Fratanduono-Meo, listen as Shira Goodman, director of CeaseFire PA, speaks during a 2018 press conference. [ART GENTILE / FILE]

Victim families: 'We want answers'

Mark Potash feels like time stands still without his son Mark Sturgis, who he described as a loving man with a great sense of humor and “unwavering loyalty” to friends and family.

Some days, Potash has said he can barely get out of bed to go to work without the 22-year- old by his side.

“I stare at his guitar wishing I could hear him play one more time,” said Potash, who loved to hear his son play “Stairway to Heaven.” “He was as good as you can get.“

Families in mourning:Victim's families continue to search for answers

DiNardo plea, Kratz backs out

The paperwork was signed. Two separate agreements were in order.

In the Solebury quadruple murder case, a 2018 court hearing was supposed to provide some legal closures. The cousin killers were expected to take plea deals and be sentenced, sparring the four Lost Boys of Bucks County, as they became known, from a trial and weeks of grueling and graphic testimony.

More:The lives of the 'Lost Boys of Bucks County': Dean Finocchiaro, Thomas Meo, Jimi Patrick, Mark Sturgis

But while 21-year-old Cosmo DiNardo, of Bensalem, took his deal — four consecutive life sentences for a guilty plea to four counts of first-degree murder — his cousin got cold feet.

Sean Kratz, 21, of Northeast Philadelphia, rejected a Bucks County prosecutors' offer in open court, passing up a negotiation that would have seen him jailed 59 to 118 years on a single count of third-degree murder. A jury would ultimately reject his claims that he was coerced or forced by his fear of his cousin to kill.

No deal:DiNardo to serve life as cousin rejects deal, faces death

Four funerals concluded, ahead a crucible

Four funerals.

Tom Meo at Saint Anselm in Northeast Philadelphia, Thursday morning. Mark Sturgis at Fluehr Funeral Home in Bensalem, Thursday night. Jimi Patrick at St. Andrew in Newtown Township, Friday. Dean Finocchiaro at Dougherty Funeral Home in Middletown, Saturday.

Four families, drawn together in desperate hours because their four young men were murder victims. Cosmo DiNardo, 20, has confessed to luring, shooting and burying them on his parents’ secluded farm in Solebury.

Read about the funerals that were tributes to lives cut short:

Mullane:Four funerals concluded, ahead a crucible

Cosmo DiNardo, Sean Kratz charged with homicide

Homicide charges were filed against both Cosmo DiNardo and a second man, later identified as Kratz in the killings of four missing men from Bucks and Montgomery counties.

More:Photos: A look back at the search for the Lost Boys of Bucks County

Court records show DiNardo faces four charges each of criminal homicide, conspiracy to commit criminal homicide, three felony counts each of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery and four misdemeanor charges each of abuse of corpse and conspiracy to commit abuse of corpse.

A look back at the early legal case against Cosmo DiNardo:

Officially charged:Cousins charged in deaths of four men

Bucks DA: Remains of 1 of 4 missing men identified

Bucks County's district attorney took time while working the case to praise the work of the men and women in involved in the search for four missing men and their "tenderly, painstakingly, reverentially" way they have treated human remains found in a grave on a Solebury property owned by the parents of Cosmo DiNardo, who at the time was only name a "person of interest" in the case.

One identified:Remains of 1 of 4 missing men identified; found in 'common grave' in Solebury

Investigators suspect foul play

Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said July 11, 2017 that the investigation into the whereabouts of four missing men from Bucks and Montgomery counties is a "marathon" and not a sprint.

Weintraub also shut down rumors of the recovery of bodies by saying investigators have not recovered "any human remains at this point."

Troubling findings:Investigators suspect foul play in case of 4 missing men from Bucks, Montgomery counties

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: 5 years later, a look back at disappearance, murder of 4 men in Bucks