Father testifies about moments leading up to daughter’s disappearance

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The father of a missing and presumed dead Neptune woman was able to maintain his composure while testifying about the moments before her disappearance.

Monmouth County prosecutors focused heavily on text messages Michael Stern sent to his daughter Sarah on the day she went missing. Stern sent several messages asking Sarah where she was and if she was OK. She never responded.

The prosecution also focused on Stern and Sarah’s relationship, telling the jury that the two were close despite the death of Stern’s wife a few years prior.

RELATED: Sarah Stern murder trial Day 3: Jurors view police body cam footage of defendant 
RELATED: Man on trial for killing of classmate driven to tears during testimony 

The defense attorney for defendant Liam McAtasney asked Stern if he thought that Sarah may have jumped from the Route 35 Bridge in Belmar when he learned that her car was left by the bridge.

The attorney also asked Stern if he knew that Sarah was packing to leave home while Stern was staying in Florida. Stern said that he did not know this.

The prosecution says that McAtasney and his accomplice Preston Taylor threw Sarah’s body over the bridge in December 2016 after McAtasney strangled her in order to steal money she recently inherited. Taylor previously pleaded guilty to his role in the crime.

MORE: ‘He stuffed a scarf down her throat’ – Trial begins for man accused of killing childhood friend 

An ocean expert testified that Sarah Stern’s body likely drifted out to sea before anyone had a chance to find the body in the Shark River.

“I concluded to a reasonable degree of certainty that…the alleged victim drifted out of the Shark River Inlet with the outgoing tide,” expert Hugh Roarty of Rutgers University testified.

Roarty said that Sarah’s body would have been 7 miles offshore within 24 hours of her body being thrown into the river.

The prosecution also called a crime scene investigator to the stand to testify about the money found in Sarah’s safety deposit box. That testimony is expected to continue Wednesday.

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