Cosmo DiNardo’s cousin and alleged coconspirator, Sean Kratz, returned to a Bucks County courtroom Monday for a pretrial hearing that at times included tense back and forth between prosecutors and Kratz’s new attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr.

Kratz, 21, of Northeast Philadelphia, is charged with helping DiNardo kill and bury three of four victims in a series of 2017 slayings that garnered national attention.

Sean Kratz (left) and Cosmo DiNardo (right) are charged in the Bucks County slayings. The two men are cousins, authorities say.
Sean Kratz (left) and Cosmo DiNardo (right) are charged in the Bucks County slayings. The two men are cousins, authorities say.

While DiNardo pleaded guilty in May and was sentenced to life in prison, Kratz’s journey through the court system has been more dramatic, full of delays and last-minute changes that have further anguished the victims' families.

On Monday, Kratz’s attorney argued that his April 2018 statement to authorities should not be presented at trial, and that prosecutors should be barred from seeking the death penalty. Prosecutors pushed back.

Bucks County Judge Jeffrey L. Finley adjourned the proceedings, which had been expected to last for three days, saying he would later issue written rulings.

Victims' family and friends arrive for Sean Kratz's pretrial hearing on Monday.
Cain Images
Victims' family and friends arrive for Sean Kratz's pretrial hearing on Monday.

Prosecutors began building their case against DiNardo and Kratz in July 2017, when authorities discovered the bodies of four young men — Jimi Patrick, 19, of Newtown Township; Dean Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown Township; Thomas Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township; and Mark Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg — on the DiNardo family’s Solebury farm. They had gone missing, triggering a days-long search.

DiNardo confessed, telling police he lured the men by saying he’d sell them marijuana, then shot and killed them. He said Kratz helped him kill Finocchiaro, Meo, and Sturgis.

Investigators at the DiNardo family farm in Solebury, gathering evidence on the disappearance of four Bucks County men.
Investigators at the DiNardo family farm in Solebury, gathering evidence on the disappearance of four Bucks County men.

Kratz, in a yellow prison jumpsuit, arrived in court Monday looking noticeably heavier, with two new tattoos beside his ears. He sat in front of more than a dozen relatives of the victims, who again filled half of a small Doylestown courtroom. This time, they heard arguments and evidence on several motions filed by the prosecution and the defense in advance of Kratz’s trial, scheduled for April.

Among the issues: Peruto’s bid to suppress two recorded statements made by Kratz — one in an interrogation room in Philadelphia in July 2017, the other in Doylestown during discussions in the spring about a third-degree-murder plea deal that Kratz later aborted.

Peruto withdrew his motion to suppress the initial statement after Deputy District Attorney Mary Kate Kohler began playing a recording of the four-hour interview, at the beginning of which Kratz, calm and in a black T-shirt, waived his Miranda rights. In the brief part of the video shown before Peruto’s objection, Kratz told officers he had last seen DiNardo two weeks earlier.

Sean Kratz's new attorney, A. Charles "Chuck" Peruto, arrives for Monday's pretrial hearing in Doylestown.
Cain Images
Sean Kratz's new attorney, A. Charles "Chuck" Peruto, arrives for Monday's pretrial hearing in Doylestown.

Peruto did ask the judge to suppress the second statement, made in April. He argued that the entire recorded statement need not be viewed in open court. When the video was stopped after a few minutes, Peruto questioned First Assistant District Attorney Gregg Shore about whether Kratz was aware of the plea’s terms before that meeting.

Shore said prosecutors made clear to Kratz’s attorneys that if he were to balk at the deal, the statement could be used against him.

Peruto argued that Kratz’s then-attorney, Craig Penglase, may not have properly relayed to his client that the agreed-upon sentence was 59 to 119 years.

Victims' family and friends arrive for Sean Kratz's Monday court hearing.
Cain Images
Victims' family and friends arrive for Sean Kratz's Monday court hearing.

In a separate motion, defense attorney Niels C. Eriksen Jr. argued that the death penalty should be barred, noting that DiNardo received a life sentence.

“In this case, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to say you have a far worse actor in Cosmo DiNardo,” Eriksen said.

Defense attorney Julieanne Bateman also asked Finley to bring in an out-of-town jury, saying Bucks County residents had been saturated by sensational and unceasing media coverage and could not be impartial. “The people in Bucks County are most attached to this,” she said.

Shore countered, saying, “I think we owe it to Bucks County to choose from its own residents.”

Originally, Kratz was to plead guilty on the same day as DiNardo, but changed his mind. Then, attorney Penglase was removed after leaking confession tapes of DiNardo and Kratz. The leak caused Finley to issue an order barring prosecutors and defense attorneys from publicly discussing the case.