Anthony Curry helped police solve the murder of Sarah Stern, a 19-year-old artist who went missing in December 2016. Her car was found abandoned car on a bridge between Neptune and Belmar, New Jersey, with the keys still inside. Her body was never found. At the time, police were under the impression Stern might have committed suicide—but things didn’t add up. They had little to go off of until Curry entered the picture.
It was Curry, an amateur Brooklyn filmmaker, who informed police in January 2017 that his friend, Liam McAtasney, confessed to killing Stern. He said McAtasney strangled Stern to death and threw her body off a bridge in an attempt to steal $10,000 dollars from her. He had been expecting to get $50,000 to $100,000, Asbury Park Press reported.
Immediately after Stern’s disappearance, police had spoken with McAtasney since he was the last one who saw Stern. McAtasney claimed he didn’t know what happened to her and talked about her having a rocky relationship with her father.
For weeks, questions about Stern’s death remained unanswered—until Curry contacted authorities. McAtasney confessed to Curry that he had murdered his former classmate for money.
McAtasney, who pleaded not guilty, was found guilty in February 2019 of first-degree murder, desecrating human remains, robbery, and other charges. He was accused of strangling Stern, killing her for her money and recruiting Preston Taylor, McAtasney’s former roommate and Stern’s junior prom date, to assist with getting rid of her body. McAtasney faces life in prison.
Admitting his role early on in the investigation, Taylor worked with police. He told them how he moved Stern’s body and testified against McAtasney at trial. Taylor pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery, second-degree conspiracy to commit robbery and second-degree disturbing or desecrating human remains. He is serving 18 years in prison.
Stern’s murder is being featured on Friday’s edition of ABC’s 20/20. To find out more about Curry, continue reading below for five fast facts:
1. Stern Doesn’t Consider Himself a Hero
Curry betrayed his friend’s confidence because he wanted to help bring closure to Stern’s family and friends. “I didn’t do it for fame and notoriety,” he told ABC News’ 20/20 anchor Amy Robach.
Stern’s father, Michael Stern, said his daughter’s case might have remained unsolved if Curry didn’t come forward. “We probably never would have got an answer,” Michael Stern told 2020. “It was a tough decision for him. He didn’t have to come forward.”
Even though McAtasney was his friend, he knew informing police was the right thing to do. “[I’ll] live with this stuff for the rest of my life,” Curry told 20/20. “Back then he was a great friend, one of my best friends. He’d give you the shirt off his back. Now, [he’s] dead, a killer.”
“If somebody is capable of doing that, he could try to hurt my family or somebody I knew … kid’s wacko,” Curry added. “You don’t believe somebody would do something like that. So, it’s heartbreaking in a sense. Somebody who’s your good friend, you don’t think they would do something like that. It was an innocent person.”
2. McAtasney Told Curry the Murder Would Be a Great Idea for a Movie
McAtasney and Curry met in high school. They connected over their shared interest in music and movies.
McAtasney first told Curry about his plot to murder someone over Thanksgiving break in 2016. At the time, Curry didn’t think McAtasney was serious.
“I’m a filmmaker. He used to tell me ideas all the time about films I should make and all that stuff,” Curry told 20/20. “And he told me about this idea he had to kill this girl … that he was going to strangle her and throw her over the bridge with his friend.”
But in January when McAtasney sent Curry Snapchat messages about talking to police regarding a murder, Curry knew his high school friend wasn’t kidding. He took a photo of the texts since the messages on the app disappear after you open them.
3. The Judge Credited Curry with ‘Breaking the Case’
Curry agreed to work with the police. He allowed them to set up a hidden camera in his car and then met with McAtasney, who was eager to talk about the murder.
“My biggest problem was the dog,” McAtasney said in the beginning of the video, according to NJ. com. “Her dog laid there and watched as I killed her. Didn’t do anything.”
“I pretty much hung her,” McAtasney told Curry in the video. “I picked her up and had her dangling off the ground. It took me a half-hour to kill her.”
“I set a timer.”
4. Curry Testify McAtasney Thought He Would Get up to $100,000 From Stern
McAtasney was more upset about not getting more money out of Stern than murdering her. Whereas he was expecting to steal $100,000, he walked away with $10,000.
“That’s not even the worst part,” McAtasney said while discussing talking to the police. “The worst part of it is I thought I was going to come out $50,000 to a $100,000 in my pocket. She had one safe that she took money out, and she only had $10,000. And this money, I don’t know if it was burnt or something, it’s f–ing old money. Terrible quality. I don’t even know if I can put any of it in the f—ing bank.”
McAtasney added, “I didn’t get a lot of money but I got enough to live comfortably in my house and throw parties all the time.”
“I don’t feel any different, I really don’t think about it,” McAtasney added. “You always think you’re going to try all these new things and change, but it just doesn’t do anything. It’s weird.”
5. Curry Lured McAtasney in by Saying He Needed Money
Curry allowed for authorities to tap his phone and then asked him to call McAtasney. In the phonecall, Curry told McAtasney he wanted to meet up because he needed to borrow money.
The phone call was played for the jury in the trial. “I thought you had bread,” Curry says, referring to the money he stole from Stern.
“I need to tell you in person. I’m not trying to be a d—. I have $5,000 and I’m unemployed. … My cash is low quality, they won’t take it,” McAtasney said. “That’s all I can say.”
To see the full story, don’t miss 20/20 on Friday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.