Man on trial for killing of classmate driven to tears during testimony

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A man on trial for the murder of a former high school classmate and childhood friend appeared to be driven to tears during testimony.

Liam McAtasney is on trial for allegedly strangling Sarah Stern, his former high school classmate, in order to steal money she had inherited.

McAtasney’s former coworker, a waitress at Brennan's Steakhouse in Neptune City, testified that McAtasney left work for a time on the night that Stern was last seen in December 2016. The defendant appeared to be wiping away tears during the testimony.

Jurors also continued to hear testimony from Preston Taylor, one of the prosecutor’s star witnesses. Taylor admitted to helping McAtasney dispose of Stern’s body after she was killed. Taylor pleaded guilty as part of an agreement to testify at the trial.

McAtasney’s defense attorney Carlos Diaz-Cobo spent less than an hour cross-examining Taylor, and attempted to paint a picture of Taylor as a liar and someone that jurors should not believe.

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"And you testified yesterday that the cooperation agreement [with prosecutors] called for truthfulness right? But you don't always tell the truth?” Cobo asked.

“I haven’t in the past,” Taylor replied.

But on redirect, Assistant Monmouth Prosecutor Chris Decker made it clear that Taylor knew that if he lied on the stand, his plea agreement would be null and he could face 30 years to life in prison.

Jurors also heard testimony about how Taylor and McAtasney bought walkie-talkies, allegedly used to communicate plans to kill Stern without leaving evidence on a cellphone.

Family and friends of Stern testified that, although her relationship with her father may have been strained at times, and she said she wanted to move to Canada, she made no indications she wanted to kill herself.

Jurors are expected to soon hear from another prosecutorial witness – another classmate of McAtasney who secretly recorded McAtasney allegedly confessing to the murder and the cover-up.

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