Prosecutors: Suspect in missing Neptune teen's murder taped by accomplice

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
New details in murder of NJ teen
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Shirleen Allicot has the latest on the death of New Jersey teen Sarah Stern.

BELMAR, New Jersey (WABC) -- The man accused in the murder of a 19-year-old New Jersey woman late last year will remain in custody as the case moves forward, a ruling that emerged from a dramatic court appearance in which prosecutors alleged a slew of disturbing details.

Although the body of 19-year-old Sarah Stern still hasn't been found, authorities believe she was killed December 2, the day before she was reported missing.

Two of her lifelong friends are now accused in her death, and authorities believe 19-year-old Liam McAtasney strangled her before enlisting 19-year-old Preston Taylor to help dump the body off the Route 35 Bridge in Belmar.

Left: Liam McAtasney, Right: Preston Taylor

Stern's car was found with the keys still in the ignition, but repeated searches of the Shark River Inlet have found nothing.

McAtasney sat shackled in the jury box during Tuesday's hearing, as assistant prosecutor Meghan Doyle laid out why he should not be offered bail.

Prosecutors told the judge that McAtasney, of Neptune City, was caught on videotape saying he strangled Stern with such force that he lifted her off the ground and watched for 30 minutes as she died in her home. They said he gave the description to Taylor, Stern's junior year prom date, who secretly videotaped their meeting.

McAtasney's attorney, Charles Moriarty, did not fight prosecutors' bid to keep his client in custody, but he told reporters after the hearing that McAtasney was innocent.

"He didn't hurt her," he said. "And wouldn't hurt her."

Prosecutors allege that McAtasney killed Stern in her Neptune City home and robbed her of thousands of dollars, then employed Taylor to help put her body in her car before driving to the bridge. Both defendants were among the nearly 100 people who volunteered to help search for Stern after her car was found.

McAtasney faces charges of murder, felony murder, conspiracy, hindering apprehension and disposal of human remains. Authorities allege Stern was killed during a robbery that McAtasney had planned for several months. Taylor has been charged with conspiracy, hindering apprehension and disposal of human remains for his alleged role in the crime. He will also remain in jail until his trial.

Taylor's attorney, John Perrone, has said that Taylor tried to talk McAtasney out of killing Stern. Prosecutors say they have no evidence of that.

Anyone with further information about the case is asked to call (800) 533-7443, (732) 775-1615, or (732) 681-1700.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)