The body of 19-year-old Sarah Stern still has not been found, but the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office announced Thursday that Liam McAtasney and Preston Taylor, both 19 and from Neptune City, are now charged in her death.
Stern was last seen at her home on the night of December 2. Hours later, her unoccupied vehicle was found on the Route 35 Bridge in Belmar over the Shark River Inlet with the keys still in the ignition.
A state police helicopter flew rounds up and down the inlet Friday, much like it did in December, and the conditions are challenging now as they were then.
"It is possible due to oceanic currents and tides that her remains might have been swept out of the river into the Atlantic," Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said. "But we are hoping for a miracle."
Dad Micheal Stern stood on the shores as long as the cold and his emotions would allow, and then he went home, less than two miles from the cold and choppy waters that authorities believe have been his daughter's resting place for the past few months.
"I stayed for as long as I could, but it got too cold," he said. "I'm just so overcome. Give me a minute."
He was also in court Thursday as prosecutors charged McAtasney, a former classmate, with first-degree murder. Authorities say McAtasney had gone to Stern's home with a plan to rob her. Instead, he is accused of strangling he before contacting Taylor for assistance in moving and ultimately disposing of the body.
McAtasney is charged with first-degree murder, robbery, desecration of human remains, conspiracy and hindering apprehension. Taylor is charged with desecration of human remains, conspiracy and hindering apprehension. They both pleaded not guilty.
The search and recovery operation to locate Stern's remains is expected to continue into the weekend.
Michael Stern said he's grateful his daughter's story is being told, and he's praying her remains are found. He also wants justice, pleading for help from anyone who could add details to the police investigation.
Anyone with further information that may assist authorities 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.