Officials: Missing Neptune City teen Sarah Stern was strangled by friend during robbery
Two Neptune City teens have been charged in connection with the death and disappearance of missing 19-year-old Sarah Stern.
Liam McAtasney, 19, and Preston Taylor, 19, were in Monmouth County court Thursday to face the charges.
Officials say McAtasney strangled Stern while attempting to rob her home last year. He faces murder, robbery and a number of other charges.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni tells News 12 New Jersey that McAtasney allegedly stole thousands of dollars from Stern's home.
Taylor is accused of helping McAtasney dispose of Stern's body. Officials say the two teens put Stern's body in the trunk of her car, drove it to the Route 35 Bridge in Belmar and then threw the body off the bridge into the Shark River. Taylor was charged with desecration of human remains and hindering.
Sources tell News 12 New Jersey that police found McAtasney's phone in Stern's driveway. It was a phone that he later reported as stolen.
Stern had been missing since Dec. 2, 2016. Her car was found abandoned by the bridge a few hours after she was reported missing.
A large search effort was put into place by law enforcement officers and friends. Dive teams searched the river, and officers searched the surrounding areas. Dozens of friends and family members also organized search parties to look for Stern.
Friends tell News 12 New Jersey that McAtasney and Taylor were friends with Stern and that they even participated in the search parties. There are photos on social media showing the three teens together.
Stern's body has not yet been recovered.
Gramiccioni is asking anyone who might have additional information about this case to call the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office at 800-533-7443, the Neptune City Police Department at 732-775-1615, or the Belmar Police Department at 732-681-1700.
Anyone who wishes to remain anonymous can call Monmouth County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-671-4400; can text "MONMOUTH" plus their tip to 274637; or, they can email a tip via the Crime Stoppers website.