Defense witness says he saw Sarah Stern alive after she was reported missing

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A witness testified Wednesday that he saw Sarah Stern alive after she was supposedly murdered.

Craig Hetzel, Sr., a contractor from Neptune, testified for the defense that he saw Stern alive one day after she was allegedly strangled by childhood friend Liam McAtasney.

Stern was reported missing Dec. 2, 2016, sparking a large search effort. Hetzel testified that he saw Stern on Dec. 3.

“When I pulled up to the door, there was a picture of a girl. I said to my son, I said, ‘That’s who we saw. That’s who I saw that day,’” Hetzel testified, adding that there was “no doubt” in his mind that the girl he saw was Stern.

Earlier in the day, the prosecution called their final two witnesses to testify – both detectives from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

RELATED: Judge dismisses 2nd juror; denies mistrial request in Sarah Stern murder trial 
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One detective testified about a timer on a phone McAtasney is accused of using to time how long it took to allegedly strangle Stern. That time was mentioned by McAtasney during a hidden video that the jury saw earlier in the trial where McAtasney appeared to describe how Stern died.

McAtasney is accused of killing Stern so that he could steal thousands of dollars she recently received. Prosecutors say that McAtasney and accomplice Preston Taylor then threw Stern’s body off the Route 35 Bridge into the Shark River below. Stern’s body has never been found.

Taylor pleaded guilty to his role in the crime and testified for the prosecution.

The trial is expected to resume Thursday. Defense witnesses expected to speak include McAtasney’s mother and a private investigator hired by the defense team.

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