20/20 investigates the death of Sarah Stern in an episode airing on ABC on Friday, March 27. The episode, which delves into the details surrounding her murder, originally aired in 2019, but includes new interviews from people who knew Stern.
According to ABC, when 21-year-old Liam McAtasney was found guilty of first-degree murder, felony murder, robbery, disturbing human remains, conspiring with another to disturb human remains and hindering prosecution, it was believed that his motivation for killing her was money that he understood to be in her possession. Preston Taylor, who was Stern’s prom date, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery, second-degree conspiracy to commit robbery and second-degree disturbing or desecrating human remains.
The Money Stolen From Stern When She Was Murdered Was Left By Her Late Mother
Stern first came into possession of the money that McAtasney and Taylor plotted to steal from her after her mother died of cancer in 2013. Liam McAtasney was reported to be with Stern when she found a shoebox of money from her late mother and told Preston Taylor that he believed the box had $100,000 in it.
Taylor testified “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. 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.”
ABC reports that McAtasney told Taylor it was the “type of money somebody would kill for.” The Washington Post reported that the box actually had $25,000 in it and that Stern had spent much of the money prior to her murder.
Per ABC, a recording played during the trial allegedly placed McAtasney saying to a friend “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.”
Prosecutors Claimed McAtasney Had Planned Stern’s Murder for 6 Months
Asbury Park Press reported that when Sarah Stern first went missing, McAtasney told police that she had talked about suicide in the past. Hours after her disappearance, McAtasney was recorded by police body cameras saying “I just know she’s been trying to get away, been telling me she’s moving to Canada.”
According to ABC, during the trial, prosecutors alleged that McAtasney was plotting Sarah Stern’s murder for 6 months before executing it in December 2016. They claimed that his plan was to get money from her lockbox, which is where he thought she was storing up to $100,000. Taylor testified that McAtasney told him his plan was to get her drunk enough where he could still the money.
Liam McAtasney’s friend Anthony Curry testified against McAtasney. He said “He told me he was going to meet up with Sarah, she had found this money. 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.”