N.J. Teen Pleads Guilty to Dumping Body of Childhood Friend in a River

Preston Taylor has agreed to testify against his co-defendant, Liam McAtasney

A New Jersey teen pleaded guilty to dumping the body of his childhood friend into a river after she was allegedly strangled by their other friend, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office announced Monday.

Preston Taylor, 19, entered a plea Monday to seven counts in the high-profile death of friend Sarah Stern, including robbery, hindering apprehension and tampering with physical evidence. He has also agreed to testify against his co-defendant, Liam McAtasney, also 19.

Taylor entered his plea at the Monmouth County Superior Courthouse, according to prosecutors.

Taylor also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and disturbing or desecrating human remains.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors removed a felony murder charge against him.

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Peter Ackerman/The Asbury Park Press/AP

Investigators allege McAtasney told a witness that he had choked Stern and watched her die for “about 30 minutes.” Audio from his alleged confession was recorded, prosecutors say.

Authorities allege McAtasney told the witness that “he had planned it for weeks leading up to Stern’s death.” He allegedly enlisted Taylor’s help in disposing her body.

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Stern went missing in December. Her body has not been recovered.

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McAtasney’s defense lawyer says his client is innocent and said there is no proof Stern is not alive.

McAtasney, who allegedly stole thousands of dollars from Stern, is being held without bail.

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In court on Monday, Taylor allegedly admitted to helping McAtasney remove Stern’s body from his home, and later throwing her body over the Route 35 Bridge in Belmar.

Taylor faces up to 20 years in prison, according to prosecutors.

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