Dad of New Jersey teen allegedly killed by classmate testifies at trial

BELMAR, New Jersey (WABC) -- The father of a teenager who was allegedly murdered by her childhood friend and dumped off a bridge in New Jersey took the stand Tuesday.

Liam McAtasney is accused of strangling 19-year-old Sarah Stern in her Neptune City home before disposing of her body in the Shark River in Belmar.

Sarah Stern's father, Michael Stern, testified about his relationship with his daughter and the impact his wife's death had on the family.

Prosecutors allege that McAtasney killed Stern over roughly $8,000 that was in her home. He apparently thought he was going to get $100,000 but was mistaken about the amount of cash, Assistant Prosecutor Meghan Doyle previously told jurors.

Stern was last seen at her home on the night of December 2, 2016. Hours later, her unoccupied vehicle was found on the Route 35 Bridge over the Shark River Inlet with the keys still in the ignition. Her body has never been found.

Authorities believe McAtasney dumped the body with the help of his friend, Preston Taylor, who was Stern's former prom date and McAtasney's roommate at the time. Taylor has pleaded guilty and previously testified as the prosecution's star witness.

He said McAtasney told him Stern had the "type of money somebody would kill for" and that the plan was to get her drunk and take the money left to her by her mother, who had died while they were all in high school.

Left: Liam McAtasney, Right: Preston Taylor


"Specifically decided that Liam would strangle her," he testified. "Any other way, any type of weapon, would have been too messy, would have left a whole lot of evidence. And then as far as what to do with her after she was dead, we talked about a couple plans. Bury her down at the campsite that Liam's dad owns, leaving her at the house, and then ultimately, we decided that the best way to go about it would be to make it look like a suicide."

On Tuesday, Michael Stern gave the impression that Sarah handled her mother's death as well as could be expected. He was also asked about phone messages and conversations he had with his daughter before her disappearance. He talked about Sarah's travels and her desire to move to Canada.

Michael Stern also shared many text messages with his daughter, which ended abruptly when she went missing. Michael Stern has gone to Disney World, and while there, he received a frantic message about his daughter's car. He started getting ready to drive back to New Jersey right away to look for his daughter.

McAtasney has denied everything. If convicted. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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