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Who Was Sarah Stern? New Details About The New Jersey Man Who Was Found Guilty Of Her Murder

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Who Was Sarah Stern? New Details About The New Jersey Man Who Was Found Guilty Of Her Murder

Sarah Stern and Liam McAtasney grew up together in Neptune, NJ. They met in elementary school and remained friendly through high school and beyond. Sarah attended prom with Liam’s best friend Preston Taylor. All three of them stayed in their hometown after high school graduation and continued their friendships with one another.

Then in 2016, Liam ended their friendship in the most final way: he killed Sarah.

This week, Liam was finally convicted of the brutal murder of his lifelong friend. In 2017, Preston pleaded guilty to conspiring to hide Sarah body, which was never found. So who was Sarah Stern? And why did Liam McAtasney kill her? Read on for all the details.

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1. They were childhood friends.

Liam and Sarah met as grade school students in New Jersey. Sarah’s father recalled to The Daily Beast that the two of them were often together.

“I used to drive them to school in the mornings and I always made sure Liam got extra candy when I played Santa Claus at their school because he was Sarah’s friend.”

They continued being close in high school, even though they had very different interests. Sarah was athletic and enjoyed photography and art, while Liam was more solitary, preferring the company of his best friend Preston Taylor. Regardless, their social circles overlapped and they hung out together regularly. Preston was even Sarah’s date to the junior prom. Her father says “Preston was her date to prom and Liam was also in that friend group that went together. They were all so happy that night.” 

2. She had an inheritance.

Sarah’s mother died three years ago. After she passed away, she left Sarah a box filled with cash. Liam knew about the money and was under the impression that it was a large amount — perhaps as much as $100,000, according to Preston’s statement to police.

The two of them because discussing what they would do if they had that much money at their disposal and they began to think about stealing it from Sarah. Over the course of six months the plan changed from robbery to murder. He told another friend, Anthony Curry, that he was planning to get her drunk, kill and rob her.

3. And she was murdered for it.

On the night of Dec. 2, 2016, Liam contacted Preston from outside Sarah’s apartment.

"I'm at the bank. I'm going to do it now. I'm going to take her out," referring to Sarah’s house as “the bank" because that’s where she kept the money he hoped to steal. He then went inside and strangled Sarah to death — a process that took nearly 30 minutes. He later described it to another friend Anthony Curry in a conversation that Curry recorded.

Liam said “She p**sed herself, said my name. It took me a half hour to kill her. I choked her out, and she was just laying there, having a seizure.” Immediately after she died he broke open her safe to get the money, then he went to Preston’s house and told him, “Dude, I did it. We’ll go there later but I need you to go there now and hide the body and remove it from the house.”

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4. They hide the body.

In the hours after her death, Preston and Sarah made arrangements to hide Sarah’s body and try to stage the scene to look like a suicide.

They carried her down to her car and placed her body in the front seat, and Liam drove the car to a bridge. Preston followed in a second vehicle. They threw Sarah’s body into the river and left in Preston’s car, leaving the keys in the ignition of Sarah’s car to make it look as if she had abandoned it and jumped.

5. They helped in the search.

It didn’t take long for a full search to begin for Sarah’s body. The police and community worked together to try and find her, including Liam and Preston. Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Meghan Doyle told The Daily Beast that he helped in the search and acted distraught at Sarah’s disappearance in an effort to cover for his crime.

"For the two months after that, [Liam McAtasney] spent the entire time calculating every one of his moves to continue to cover up the murder and death of Sarah Stern. He thought that that would alleviate his guilt.”

6. Anthony recorded his confession.

At the beginning of February, eight weeks after Sarah disappeared, police received a call from Anthony Curry saying that he thought Liam and Preston were the murders. He produced a videotape of a conversation he had with Liam wherein Liam had described the plan and Sarah's death to him.

He even explained that the money was the motive and expressed disappointment that it had been far less cash than he had hoped.

7. They were then arrested.

On Feb. 1, 2017, Liam was arrested and charged with murder, felony murder, conspiracy, hindering apprehension, and desecration of human remains. Preston was also arrested and charged with conspiracy, hindering apprehension, and desecration of human remains.

Preston ultimately confessed to his role in the crime in exchange for a plea agreement with prosecutors.  He received lesser charges in exchange for testifying against Liam.


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8. He was recently convicted.

On Feb. 27, 2019, Liam was convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, conspiracy, desecration of human remains and hindering apprehension after two days of deliberations. He will be sentenced on May 24 and faces a maximum of life in prison. Preston will be sentenced at the same time.

Sarah’s father hoped that the trial would help bring him peace of mind, saying "My life has been on hold for two years. I can’t focus and you never know what might trigger a thought of Sarah. I have a huge hole in my heart, and nothing can ever make it whole.”

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.