Closing arguments begin in New Jersey trial of man accused of murdering classmate

FREEHOLD, New Jersey (WABC) -- Closing arguments are underway Friday in the trial of a man accused of murdering a former high school classmate and throwing her body off of a bridge in New Jersey.

Monmouth County prosecutors say Liam McAtasney strangled 19-year-old Sarah Stern in her Neptune City home before disposing of her body in the Shark River in Belmar.

The defense claimed there is no physical evidence to support the accusations against McAtasney, who told a judge Thursday that he would not testify on his own behalf.

Jurors in the case heard a chilling, grisly confession allegedly recorded by one of McAtasney's friends.

Anthony Curry, an amateur filmmaker, came forward to authorities in January 2017, about a month after the murder. He testified that McAtasney had approached him the previous Thanksgiving with his plan to kill Stern and steal money left to her when her mother had passed away.

After Stern's disappearance, Curry went to police, who had him contact McAtasney and arrange a face to face meeting. It is a secret video recording set up in Curry's car, McAtasney allegedly admitted in graphic detail choking Stern for a half an hour, stealing her safe and throwing her body off the bridge with accomplice Preston Taylor's help.

Taylor has pleaded guilty and already testified against McAtasney.

RELATED: 2 jurors dismissed in Sarah Stern trial after Facebook post

In the alleged confession, McAtasney describes Stern going into convulsion and taking a half hour to die. Most of the details are too disturbing to print.

While the video confession was being played, Stern's father sat in the courtroom being consoled by family members as he trembled and cried.

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

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 Taylor, who was Stern's former prom date and McAtasney's roommate at the time.

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

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