1. Quadruple Solebury Murders
In mid-July, the names Cosmo DiNardo and Sean Kratz rang through the news across the country. After a week-long search for four men on the DiNardo family farm off Lower York Road, the duo was arrested in connection with the murders.
The first victim, Jimi Taro Patrick, 19, of Newtown was gunned down and buried solely by DiNardo. Then two days later, Dean Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown, Thomas Meo, 21, of Plumstead, with Mark Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg were shot, burned, and buried by DiNardo with Kratz present, according to records. The two defendants enjoyed cheesesteaks that night and had a sleepover at DiNardo’s Bensalem home.
The recent formal arraignment led to two not-guilty pleas, an official filing of three aggravating factors from the Commonwealth, and the possibility of the death penalty for both men.
“I would expect after Jan. 23 there will be a very specific plan set,” First Assitant District Attorney Gregg Shore told WBCB 1490 AM.
Shore said the next public hearing could be as early as late March or April 2018. The four victims’ families have civil attorneys, so far the Sturgis family has filed a lawsuit against the DiNardo family.
2. Alleged Corruption in Lower Southampton
Lower Southampton residents entered 2017 with the indication their Judge John Waltman, Public Safety Director Robert Hoops, and Constable Bernard Rafferty committed multiple alleged schemes leading to a federal indictment.
Throughout the past year, the case has slowly unreviled in a Philadelphia courtroom. The most recent hearing a Philly.com writer referred to the six-year judge as running the township, “like a fiefdom.”
Waltman, 60, recently entered a plea of not guilty, to charges including conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, and fraud.
A 46-page superseding indictment was released earlier this month and paints a picture of business deals to clear zoning measures for commercial developers between summer 2014 and Dec. 2016.
The Board of Supervisors is referred to as a “rubber stamp” to any deal Waltman brought forward. Lower South’s former solicitor, Michael Savona, also cited by prosecutors.
The trio keeping their innocence is due back in court April 2018.
3. Mysterious Firefighter Funds
A Lower Southampton Police officer under fire for volunteer work. In late Feb, Brian Walter, 33, was questioned on where $51,000 went in funds intended for the Feasterville Volunteer Firefighters Relief Association.
Walter served as vice president, treasurer, and secretary of the VFRA. The 74-page grand jury report has the prosecutor’s focused on his attempt to cover up wrongdoings.
“These were secretive loans done behind closed doors that only benefited a few people,” Deputy DA Marc Furber said after the preliminary hearing in Lower South. “And potential determinant of the safety of the rest of the firefighters here.”
Walter faces nine charges including tampering with public records, forgery, and misapplication of entrusted property of government institutions. His defense attorney, Louis Busico, said Walter was unaware of the jobs’ duties when it came to the VFRA funds.
“Everyone was stretched a little too thin, they were trying to make ends meet,” Busico said in May. “But he (Walter) really was giving of himself to make sure this fire department was working properly.”
According to reports, part of the money was used to buy a Wave Runner, pay for Walter’s wedding and his brother’s, as well as, a house, tuition, and credit card debt.
The trial is slated to begin in early Jan.
4. Adoptive Mother Turned Killer
Bucks DA Matt Weintraub will handle the prosecution of the couple who allegedly carried out a “rape-and-murder fantasy” of 14-year-old Grace Packer.
Sarah Packer, 42, and Jacob Sullivan could face the death penalty for the brutal killing that spread across three counties. Packer reported her adopted daughter Grace missing in Abington, Montgomery County on July 11, 2016. The mother failed to provide pictures to police and information of her new residence in Richland Township, Bucks County.
In the attic of that Richland home, Grace was tied up and tortured, her dismembered body eventually scattered across Luzerne County and found Oct. 31.
According to reports Packer and Sullivan both attempted suicide in jail. The duo entered not guilty pleas, and Weintraub stated the plan to prosecute them together to “save resources.”
“We’re on a collision course here,” the DA said after Sullivan’s waived arraignment in late March 2017. “And we’re going to get justice for Grace not matter how long it takes.”
The trial is set to begin March 2018 in Bucks County.