Prosecutors: Liam McAtasney watched Neptune City teen Sarah Stern die for 30 minutes
The friend accused of killing 19-year-old Neptune City resident Sarah Stern strangled the teen and watched her die for 30 minutes, according to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Meghan Doyle.
The new details emerged during Liam McAtasney's bail hearing Tuesday. Doyle says that authorities have a secretly recorded video of McAtasney confessing to the crime given to them by a witness known only as A.C.
"In that consensual recording, the defendant admitted to murdering Sarah Stern with his own hands and choking her. He even as so much as demonstrated how he lifted her up off the ground then left her on the floor and watched her die," Doyle said in court. "He knew exactly how long that was because he chose to time that."
The strangling allegedly happened inside Stern's home in early December after McAtasney apparently robbed thousands of dollars from the home. He then allegedly called another friend of Stern's, Preston Taylor, to help him dispose of Stern's body.
McAtasney's attorney says that the secretly recorded videotape is questionable evidence.
"It's unusual in the sense that both boys, Preston and my client, seem to be talking like they're going out to lunch or something, like some story they made up," says attorney Charles Moriarty.
McAtasney and Taylor allegedly put Stern's body in her car and drove it to the Route 35 Bridge in Belmar to dump her body into the Shark River. Stern's car was found abandoned by the bridge.
Police dash camera video shows that a driver's 911 call to police led to the discovery of Stern's car by the bridge.
McAtasney's attorney told reporters that one of Stern's neighbors reported that Stern was moving her possessions next door the day she went missing. The attorney says the neighbor told police that she was afraid Stern was suicidal or planned to run away.
"My client indicates he has nothing to do with this and he really hopes the girl is alive," Moriarty said, "Last time he saw her, she was alive."
When Moriarty was asked if he thought the videotaped confession was the teens filming a movie instead of a describing a real-life event, he had no comment.
Judge David Bauman ordered that McAtasney be held without bail.
McAtasney, Taylor and Stern were all said to be longtime friends who grew up together. Taylor and Stern went to their junior prom together as dates. Both men also participated in a public search party for Stern when she went missing.
Stern's body has not yet been found.