FREEHOLD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New Jersey man has been charged with strangling a woman during a robbery and throwing her body off a nearby bridge with another man, prosecutors said.
Liam McAtasney, 19, of Neptune City, is charged with murder in the death of 19-year-old Sarah Stern, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni announced Thursday. He allegedly strangled Stern while trying to steal money from her.
McAtasney was also charged with desecration of human remains, conspiracy to desecrate human remains, hindering apprehension and robbery.
Stern was last seen alive on Dec. 2.
An investigation was launched after her car was found with keys in the ignition on the Route 35 bridge over the Shark River in Belmar.
Officials conducted an extensive search of the river and surrounding areas, but her body has not yet been found.
CBS2’s Meg Baker spoke with Stern’s father after the charges were read Thursday. It was the first time he learned the details of his daughter’s death, and he kept shaking his head in disbelief.
“Sarah was a good kid, didn’t deserve this. It’s just a horrible thing,” Michael Stern said. “We’re still looking for Sarah, she’s still missing, that’s our main concern.”
“Michael, up until last week when we spoke, had hope that his daughter would come back. He just hoped that she ran away for some reason and would come back,” the family’s attorney and longtime friend, Charles Stone, said.
“She was a great athlete and wonderful kid, just a good girl, everybody liked this child. So this is just devastating to the family, you can imagine this is worst thing that could happen to a parent,” Stone added.
Prosecutors say 19-year-old Preston Taylor, also of Neptune City, was charged with desecration of human remains after they say he helped dump Stern’s body. He was also charged with conspiracy to desecrate human remains, hindering apprehension and contempt.
As Baker reported, Stern was Facebook friends with the two men, but it is not clear what kind of relationship they had.
Investigators plan to be back at the Shark River on Friday morning to begin search efforts for her body.
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