N.J. Man Choked Friend for 30 Minutes Then Threw Her Body off Bridge to Steal Inheritance
A New Jersey man faces life in prison after jurors found him guilty Tuesday of murdering his childhood friend for her inheritance money and then throwing her still-missing body off a nearby bridge.
Liam McAtasney, 21, was convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, conspiracy, desecration of human remains and hindering apprehension after two days of deliberations. He will be sentenced May 24.
McAtasney killed aspiring artist Sarah Stern, 19, at her Neptune City, New Jersey, home in late 2016. After strangling her to death over 30 minutes, McAtasney placed Stern’s body in the passenger seat of her car and drove it to a bridge in Belmar.
In a secret video recording, McAtasney told a friend he’d parked the car and started dragging Stern’s body towards the edge of the bridge when three cars started approaching. He said he put the body back into the car and waited for the vehicles to pass.
His roommate, Stern’s former prom date Preston Taylor, was there to drive McAtasney back and helped him throw Stern off the bridge. They left her car behind to make it look like a suicide.
McAtasney also said in the video he planned the killing for over six months and was disappointed he only walked away with $10,000 in cash, believing the amount in a safe from Stern’s inheritance following her mother’s death was more substantial.
Taylor, now 21 but 19 at the time of the killing, has pleaded guilty and had previously testified against McAtasney.
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McAtasney has maintained his innocence since first being accused, and did not take the stand at his trial.
Closing arguments were presented late last week, and jurors began the deliberations Monday morning.
McAtasney’s attorney did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment.