Neptune City, NJ – Former classmates have been charged with the killing of Sarah Stern who had been missing since her car was found on a Belmar bridge.
NJ.com reports, on Thursday morning the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said two men – Liam McAtasney and Preston Taylor, both 19 of Neptune City – had been arrested in Stern’s death.
The Neptune City Police Department charged Liam McAtasney, 19, of Neptune City with first degree Murder, first degree Felony Murder, first degree Robbery, second degree Desecration of Human Remains, second degree Conspiracy (to Desecrate Human Remains) and second degree Hindering Apprehension. Preston Taylor, 19, also of Neptune City, was charged with second degree Desecration of Human Remains, second degree Conspiracy (to Desecrate Human Remains) and second degree Hindering Apprehension.
Detectives determined that McAtasney was responsible for killing Stern and stealing property from her on December 2, 2016. The investigation also revealed that Taylor provided assistance to McAtasney in moving and ultimately disposing of Stern’s body in order to avoid detection.
Sarah Stern’s car was found unoccupied, working properly with the keys in the ignition on December 3rd, 2016. An intensive search into the Shark River was followed after her car was found. As a result of Stern’s vehicle being found unoccupied on the bridge, the Belmar Water Rescue Team was called to search Shark River for any evidence of her body. The Belmar Water Rescue Team was assisted by the United States Coast Guard, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, the Area Network of Shore Water Emergency Responders Team and the New Jersey State Police. Those assets searched the Shark River with divers, boats and helicopters, but, to date, attempts to locate Stern have been unsuccessful.
On Sunday, December 4th, detectives from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office joined the investigation in an effort to locate Stern. Detectives from the Prosecutor’s Office and the Belmar and Neptune City Police Departments have continued to investigate her whereabouts since that time. The New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have also assisted in this investigation.
Ending a two month long mystery, the investigation found Liam McAtasney and Preston Taylor allegedly tried to cover up the killing by throwing her body into the Shark River the next day.
With a plan to rob her, McAtasney went to Stern’s Neptune City home on Dec. 2 and strangled her, prosecutors said.
After Stern’s death, McAtasney called Preston Taylor and asked him to dispose of the body and of evidence of the crime, said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni.
Using her car, the pair drove her body a couple hours later to the bridge over the Shark River in Belmar early the next morning and threw Stern’s body over the side, prosecutors said.
Sarah’s body has yet to be found.
Stern’s father, widowed three years ago, sat in court Thursday weeping as the former classmates of his only child faced Superior Court Judge David Bauman.
“We had hope up until last night. Up until we were informed, we had hope,” Charles Stone, attorney for the Stern family, said after court. “The family and friends always had hope.”
Sarah Stern attended Neptune High School where she played softball and was also a member of the swim team. Michael Stern said his daughter started on the varsity softball team as a freshman. But she was also very interested in art and photography and has a keen interest in digital media, specifically YouTube videos. She studied art and TV production at Brookdale Community College for two semesters.
The Monmouth County Crime Stoppers had offered a $5,000 reward for anyone who had information that led to the “identification, arrest and prosecution of any suspect(s) in the disappearance” of Stern.
Anyone with information that may assist in this investigation is asked to contact Detective Brian Weisbrot from the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office at (800) 533-7443, Detective Michael Vollbrecht of the Neptune City Police Department at (732) 775-1615, or Detective John Mahoney from the Belmar Police Department at (732) 681-1700.
Anyone who feels the need to remain anonymous, but has information about a crime can contact Monmouth County Crime Stoppers confidential telephone tip-line by calling 1-800-671-4400; can text “MONMOUTH” plus their tip to 274637; or, they can email a tip via the website at: www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com. Monmouth County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of criminals and fugitives.