A New Jersey man was convicted Tuesday for the November 2016 murder of a high school classmate whose body was dumped in a river and remains missing years later.
Liam McAtasney, 21, was convicted of all charges— murder, robbery, desecration of human remains, conspiracy to desecrate human remains, tampering with evidence and hindering apprehension—for strangling Sarah Stern, 19, at her Neptune City home. Preston Taylor, who pleaded guilty in April 2017 to helping McAtasney dump Stern’s body, testified how the plan to rob Stern was birthed after she discovered a shoebox containing money that was left by her late mother, according to NJ.com.
“At first we started discussing the fact that it was a lot of money, what we would do if we had that type of money,” he testified. “And then the conversation evolved into, ‘Well, what if we did have that type of money,’ specifically her money. That was when the idea to rob her came about.”
Taylor claimed McAtasney believed there was as much as $100,000 in the shoebox, according to Taylor. However, most of the money, which was actually $8,000, was usable as the rest of it was old and burned.
Anthony Curry, McAtasney’s high school friend, recorded a January 31, 2017, conversation where McAtasney admits to killing Stern and having Taylor, his roommate, help dispose of her body. The Asbury Park Press reported that McAtasney was heard saying it took a took a while to kill Stern as she convulsed and ultimately died.
“I picked her up and had her just dangling off the ground,” he recalled.
“She p**sed herself, said my name. It took me a half hour to kill her. I choked her out, and she was just laying there, having a seizure.”
Curry also testified that McAtasney told him a week before Stern’s disappearance of his plans to get her drunk, murder her, and steal money she inherited from her mother, according to WABC.
WCAU reported that Curry, an aspiring horror filmmaker, claimed he didn’t take McAtasney’s comments seriously as he thought he was describing a potential plot for a horror film.
Stern’s car was located near Route 35 Bridge over the Shark River Inlet with the keys still in the ignition, in an attempt to make it appear as a suicide. Her body was never found.
According to NJ.com, a neighbor testified that the pair came to her home as McAtasney helped Stern move boxes. The neighbor also said they had talked about moving to Canada—something Taylor said was a ruse to get Stern to access a safe deposit box. Surveillance cameras recorded her at the bank on December 2, around the time of her disappearance.
While in the bank, McAtasney and Taylor were waiting in the car and McAtasney revealed his intention to “take her out,” according to Taylor.
The news outlet noted that prosecutors presented 25 witnesses during the trial while the defense offered just three. Defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued that the prosecution didn’t prove Stern was dead.
“Without a body, there is no murder,” defense attorney Carlos Diaz-Cobo said, according to WCAU.
Sentencing for McAtasney and Taylor is scheduled for May 24.
[Featured image: Sarah Stern/Facebook]