New Jersey Man Found Guilty of Strangling Childhood Friend, Dumping Her Body

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
February 27, 2019US News
New Jersey Man Found Guilty of Strangling Childhood Friend, Dumping Her Body
Liam McAtasney, left, in a file mugshot and Sarah Stern, 19, in a file photo. (Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

A New Jersey man was found guilty of killing his childhood friend and trying to stage her death as a suicide.

Liam McAtasney, 21, of Neptune City, was found guilty on Feb. 26 of all counts, including murder, robbery, and tampering with evidence.

After the verdict was read, family members of the victim, Sarah Stern, hugged each other and cried, reported the NJ Advance Media. Detectives shook hands and hugged.

McAtasney looked straight ahead as the verdict was read but shed no tears.

“The most important thing is to get justice for Sarah,” her father, Michael Stern, told reporters outside the courthouse. “She was a great kid. It never should have ended like this. I want to thank everybody.”

The trial started on Jan. 23 when the key witness for the prosecution, Preston Taylor, testified that he removed Stern’s body from her house after McAtasney strangled her on Dec. 2, 2016, and helped McAtasney toss her body off a bridge and stage her car to make it look like she had killed herself by jumping off of the bridge.

Stern’s body had never been found.

A second key witness, Anthony Curry, a former friend of McAtasney, took the stand and described how McAtasney confessed to him that he murdered Stern.

sarah stern
Sarah Stern, 19, in a file photo. (Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office)

McAtasney told his friend that he set a timer on his phone before killing Stern but that he lost the phone at her house. “I had timed everything out,” he said.

McAtasney said he killed his old friend to get some money she had but after killing her, found the money was too old to use.

Curry recorded his interaction with McAtasney, which took place in his car. Curry said he went to the police after receiving a disturbing Snapchat message from McAtasney about a month after Stern went missing. About a week before she went missing, McAtasney allegedly told him he was going to kill Stern and rob her but Curry said he didn’t take that statement seriously at the time.

“He told me he was going to meet up with Sarah, she had found this money,” Curry testified Thursday, reported the Advance Media. “They were going to count it together. He was going to choke her, choke her out. Bring her to the bridge, throw her off and Preston was going to drive the escape vehicle. And they were going to bury the money, and leave the keys in the ignition and make it look like she killed herself.”

Police officials instructed Curry to meet with Stern and record the conversation, hoping for an admission of guilt. Curry, a filmmaker, called his friend and asked for a loan to buy a new camera, claiming he’d dropped his camera in a bucket of blood on a movie set.

McAtasney declined but asked Curry to meet with him. The conversation at the meet was recorded and included the confession.

McAtasney will be sentenced on May 24, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said.

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