Dad of teen killed by classmates: ‘I have my good days and bad days’

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The father of a 19-year-old Monmouth County woman allegedly killed by her high school friends says that he is trying to move forward a year after her death.

“That’s all I can do. One day at a time. I have my good days and I have my bad days,” Michael Stern says.

It was December 2016 when Stern’s daughter Sarah was reported missing. A large search effort was put into place after her car was found near the Route 35 Bridge in Belmar. About a month after her disappearance, police arrested two of her former friends and high school classmates.

"[Sarah] was just a great person. Real dynamic and artistic and funny. Just an all-around good kid,” Michael Stern says. “She just wanted to have a good time and enjoy life. That's all she wanted to do."

Monmouth County prosecutors say that Liam McAtasney and Preston Taylor hatched a monthslong plan to kill Sarah Stern in order to obtain a sum of money that was left to her.

Officials say that McAtasney strangled Sarah Stern, hid her body in the bushes and then called Taylor to help him dispose of the body. The two staged her disappearance to look like a suicide and then allegedly threw her body into the Shark River. Her body has not been recovered to date.

“The tides are swift and the sea is a cruel mistress,” says Michael Stern.

A memorial to honor Sarah Stern was erected near the river.

"I can't tell you how sad it is that they’re such deprived individuals to even contemplate anything like this,” Michael Stern says. “I just can't imagine what was going through their heads."

Taylor pleaded guilty to the crime and is expected to testify for the prosecutor.

McAtasney’s next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 13. His attorney is expected to argue that a taped conversation recorded by a fellow classmate that allegedly contains a confession by McAtasney to the crime should not be allowed as evidence during the trial.

Michael Stern says that he is in the process of setting up scholarships in her name at Neptune High School and Brookdale Community College, where she attended classes.

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