In 2019, Liam McAtasney was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of his childhood friend, Sarah Stern, in December 2016. He was also sentenced to an added ten years for desecrating her remains, according to ABC News.
At the time of her death, Stern was studying art and TV production at Brookdale Community College. She was 19.
Here’s what you need to know about Liam McAtasney’s role in the murder of Sarah Stern.
1. McAtasney Was Found Guilty on All 7 Counts in February 2019
In February 2019, according to ABC News, a jury found McAtasney guilty on all seven counts against him, which included first-degree murder, conspiracy, desecrating human remains, tampering with evidence, and more.
The last time Stern was seen alive was with McAtasney on the 2nd of December, 2016. The pair reportedly ran errands together before the murder occurred. After Stern’s grandmother’s 1994 Oldsmobile 88 was found abandoned on a Route 35 bridge, the police launched a search party that McAtasney joined, according to the Daily Beast.
After McAtasney and accomplice Preston Taylor’s arrests, The New York Times reported classmates as being shocked, and describing the two men as “jokesters.” “Those who know them say they enjoyed having a good time like most high school students, drinking and occasionally smoking marijuana,” according to the outlet.
1. He Reportedly Killed Stern for the Thousands of Dollars She Inherited From Her Mother
In court, prosecutors argued that McAtasney killed Stern to obtain the thousands of dollars that she had inherited from her mother, who passed away from cancer in 2013.
ABC News writes, “They claimed McAtasney planned Stern’s death for six months and his aim was to get money from her lock box, which he believed was stuffed with cash.”
During McAtasney’s sentencing, Judge Richard English said, “This is really a heinous event since this involved two people who knew each other since grammar school. He came up with this plan for six months prior and convinced someone else to take part.”
2. His Good Friend Recorded Him Admitting to the Murder
Sarah’s classmate and Liam’s friend, Anthony Curry, cooperated with the police in a sting operation that involved him secretly recording AcAtasney’s admission to the murder.
In court, the judge credited Curry with “breaking the case.”
In the hidden camera recording, McAtasney says, “It took me half an hour to kill her… The worst part of it is I thought I was walking out [with] $50,000 to $100,000 in my pocket… She had one safe that she took money out [of], and she only had $10,000.”
At another point, he mused, “My biggest problem was the dog. Her dog laid there and watched as I killed her. Didn’t do anything.”
After strangling his childhood friend, McAtasney enlisted the help of friend and roommate Preston Taylor (who had taken Stern to junior prom) to drive Stern’s car over a bridge in order to make it look like a suicide.
In court, according to The Daily Beast, Assistant Prosecutor Meghan Doyle said, “He has no remorse. His tears today are fake and if nothing else, insulting… Maybe he’s scared, maybe he’s sorry he got caught, but there’s no remorse.”
5. Stern’s Body Has Not Been Found
Stern’s body has not been located, and that’s because it likely drifted out to sea before it could be found, according to NJ.com.
In February 2019, an expert in ocean tides, Hugh Roarty, took the stand to share his expert opinion on the matter. NJ.com writes, “Roarty testified that he learned of the case after reading about Stern’s disappearance in a local news report. He said he then contacted the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and offered his expertise on the measurement of winds, currents and waves.”
Given information on the suspected time frame that Stern was thrown off the bridge, Roarty was able to carefully discern where the body would have gone because of the tide– “most likely exited the inlet into the Atlantic Ocean.”
He testified for nearly two hours in court.
5. He Is Currently Serving Time in a New Jersey Prison
According to the New York Times, at the time of her death, McAtasney listed Stern under the “family” section of his friends on Facebook.
An inmate locator search reveals that McAtasney is currently serving time in New Jersey State Prison. He is 23 today.
Preston Taylor was charged with aiding McAtasney in concealing the murder and discarding Stern’s remains.
Sarah Stern, according to her father, enjoyed attending conventions like Comic-Con and Buffer. “She just had a fantastic art teacher in high school, and her talent just blossomed over the last two or three years,” Mr. Stern said. “I would say, had her career continued, she would have become one of the top artists in the world.”