However, Liam’s mother, Megan McAtasney, believes her son is innocent. “In every bone of my body, I do not believe that Liam is capable of killing Sarah Stern, who he loved and adored,” she told 20/20 on March 1.
Liam’s former roommate, Preston Taylor, who took Stern as his date to Neptune High School’s junior prom, admitted to throwing her body off on the Route 35 Bridge between Neptune and Belmar in New Jersey. While Liam was found guilty on all seven counts against him, including desecrating human remains and conspiracy, he never took the stand and continues to claim innocence.
Taylor, however, testified during the trial and pleaded guilty to helping dispose of Stern’s body and first-degree robbery. Superior Court Judge Richard W. English sentenced Liam to life in prison without parole in June 2019, plus an additional 10 years.
Liam’s mother, who also shared a close relationship with Stern, does not believe her son is capable of murdering anyone. On Friday night, ABC News 20/20 will further investigate the case surrounding Stern, including interviews with McAtasney in a new two-hour special.
Here’s what you need to know about Megan McAtasney:
1. Megan McAtasney Believes Stern Committed Suicide
Recalling the night she first learned that Stern was missing McAtasney said, “The police ask me if Sarah’s at my home, and I tell them no. And they said they can’t find Sarah. And I tell them, ‘Not a problem. I’ll call her. She’ll answer for me.'” The following morning after authorities found Stern’s abandoned car, she believed Stern had committed suicide.
“I just started screaming,” McAtasney said. “And the police were asking me if I had seen Liam, and then I broke down again because I thought that Liam was missing, too. And they assured me that they had seen Liam in the middle of the night when I directed them to go to Liam’s house.”
2. Megan Is Also A Mother To Liam’s Twin Brother & A Younger Daughter, All Of Who Were Close With Stern
With Quinn McAtasney, Megan raised three children, Liam, his twin brother Seamus, and a daughter. McAatasney said that Liam and Stern had been friends since they were six years old and that the entire family grew close with her after Stern’s mother died of cancer in 2013.
“Everybody is affected by this,” McAtasney said. “This is a horrible, horrible, horrible situation.
McAtasney said that Stern, an aspiring artist studying at community college, previously told her daughter she wanted to move out of New Jersey. “She had expressed that to my daughter that she wanted to move to either Canada or California, and Liam told me that that was something that she was going to be doing in the future,” she said.
However, during Taylor’s testimony he said, “The stories about Stern having a troubled relationship with her father and being emotionally unstable were all lies that McAtasney had cooked up to make it look as if the 19-year-old had killed herself.”
3. Despite Liam’s Video Confession, McAtasney Believes Her Son Was Set Up
During a conversation between Liam and Anthony Curry, which was taped by detectives during a sting operation set up by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office in January 2017, revealed McAtasney admitting to strangling Stern.
In the video, Liam said, “She just p—– herself and said my name and then that was it. And it took me a half an hour to kill her. I thought I was going to be able to choke her out and have her out in like a couple of minutes.”
Liam’s lawyer, Carlos Diaz-Cobo called the video a “false confession,” and that Liam was merely auditioning for Curry, who’s an “amateur horror filmmaker.” Diaz Cobo said his client “regrets making statements” and made everything up. “He regrets it all. But most importantly, I think that he regrets that Sarah’s missing.”
McAtaseney believes her son was set up during the sting operation because “this was not anything that anybody would have expected from Liam. Nothing made sense at that point and time. Nothing makes sense at this point and time. We don’t know where Sarah is. And we just stopped looking.”
4. Megan McAtasney Feels Remorse That Michael Stern’s Daughter’s Body Has Not Been Found
While Liam is facing life in prison without possible parole, McAtasney finds relief in at least knowing the location of her son: New Jersey State Prison. “I know where my son is. My son is in jail,” McAtasney said. “Michael Stern doesn’t know where his daughter is. It’s very hard.”
Liam’s mother also believes that if her son did drop Stern’s body into the river that it would’ve washed up by now. She said, “I grew up at the beach, and when somebody goes in the water, they wash up somewhere. And when Sarah had not washed up onto any of our shores, it gave us hope that Sarah had maybe run away. In my head, I was thinking that Sarah needed to get away and for some reason [that] she felt she couldn’t tell any of us.”
5. Megan McAtasney Was First Featured In 20/20’s Special Investigation In 2019
Liam’s mother spoke to 20/20 last year, a two-hour segment which which featured interviews with Sarah’s father, Michael Stern, Liam’s attorney, Carlos Diaz-Cobo, as well as TJ Pingitore and David Kayal, the drivers who found Sarah’s abandoned vehicle.
Other featured speakers included prosecutors Chris Decker and Meghan Doyle, and few of Stern’s childhood friends, including Belinda Souza.