More details have emerged about the alleged murder of 19-year-old Sarah Stern, who vanished from her Neptune City, New Jersey, apartment in December.
Though Stern’s body has not been found, two of her former high school classmates have been charged with her murder. Liam McAtasney, 19, is accused of strangling the young woman to death in her home, and Preston Taylor, also 19, is suspected of helping McAtasney dispose of the body.
According to the New York Times, both McAtasney and Taylor participated in volunteer search efforts to look for Sarah. The three friends had known each other since they were children, and Taylor took her to the senior prom.
But somewhere along the way, the modest sum of $7,000 appears to have changed everything. It’s unclear if the cash McAtasney allegedly stole from his friend is the only motive for murder, but, based on available information, the money appears to have been central to the crime.
The evidence against McAtasney is convincing: Taylor reportedly recorded a phone conversation in which the teenager speaks of his plans. “I’m at the bank. I’m going to do it now. I’m going to take her out,” McAtasney allegedly said in the recording, according to the New York Times.
After McAtasney allegedly strangled the young woman — reportedly keeping track of how long it took her to die — he called Taylor to help him locate his cell phone and dispose of the body. The men are believed to have tossed the body over the Route 35 bridge and into the Shark River, but first, they allegedly propped Stern’s body up in the front seat of her car as they drove it to the bridge, according to a prosecutor’s statement in court. Stern’s car was found abandoned with the keys inside.
Residents of the quiet New Jersey town are struggling to come to term’s with the bright young woman’s death, and the probability that the men in custody are responsible. Both were described to the New York Times as “jokesters,” who were guilty of no more than occasionally smoking marijuana.
“He’s not that kind of kid, man,” Taylor’s uncle, Steven Staloff, told the newspaper.