Tonight’s episode of 20/20 delves deep into the mystery of what happened to Sarah Stern. The episode airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC after an all-new episode of ABC’s Shark Tank.
The case of Stern’s murder has previously been investigated by Dateline, MTV True Life Crime, Investigation Discovery and many other outlets. The 20/20 episode was first aired in March 2019.
Stern went missing in December 2016, and a high school friend was later convicted of her murder. The ABC 20/20 episode shows interviews with law enforcement along with interviews with Stern’s father.
Sarah’s Case Was First Looked at as a Possible Suicide
Initially, it was believed that Stern could have died by suicide. Her grandmother’s car, which she was driving at the time, was found next to a bridge between Belmar and Avon-by-the-Sea, New Jersey. The keys were still in the ignition according to The Washington Post.
According to the Asbury Park Press, the case was looked at as a possible suicide with the police noting that the car had been driven to the bridge. When the police met up with Liam McAtasney, a friend of Stern’s who had recently dropped out of community college, he told the police that she had threatened to kill herself at least once before.
Two months later the police arrested Liam McAtasney, charging him with strangling Stern.
Stern’s Childhood Friend Was Found Guilty of Her Murder
McAtasney was charged with first-degree murder, felony murder, robbery, disturbing human remains, conspiring with another to disturb human remains and hindering prosecution. Stern’s junior prom date, Preston Taylor, was charged with disturbing human remains, conspiring to disturb human remains and hindering prosecution.
It was reported that he was with Stern when she found a shoebox full of cash along with a note from her deceased mother at her family’s second home. As testified by Taylor, McAtasney told him there was $100,000 in the shoebox. “At first we started discussing the fact that it was a lot of money, what we would do if we had that type of money,” Taylor said. “And then the conversation evolved into, ‘Well, what if we did have that type of money,’ specifically her money. That was when the idea to rob her came about.”
The Washington Post reported that there was actually around $25,000 in the box and Stern had already used much of the money at the time of her death.
McAtasney later confessed to high school friend Arthur Curry who taped the confession for the police, which led to the arrest.
McAtasney was sentenced to life without parole, plus 10 years, in June 2019. Stern’s body has never been found. Her father, Michael Stern, said that justice was good but wouldn’t bring Sarah back to him.
“Sarah’s death just haunts me,” he said. “It’s a horrible feeling.”
Tune in to ABC News 20/20 to watch the story of Stern’s life and death including the investigation into her murder.