BELMAR, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The father of a missing New Jersey teenager is hoping search crews will find her body after authorities said two of her friends were charged in connection with her murder.
As helicopters flew over the Shark River in Belmar Friday, Mike Stern walked along the dock looking for his daughter, 19-year-old Sarah Stern.
“We’re sorrowful with the events, but we’re hoping that with the cooperation of the state police, the Coast Guard, we can recover Sarah’s body,” he told CBS2’s Magdalena Doris. “It’s important just for closure.”
Sarah Stern has been missing since Dec. 2 after her car was found on the Route 35 bridge over the Shark River with the keys still inside.
Investigators said her body was dumped by 19-year-old Liam McAtasney, who allegedly strangled Stern after robbing her.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni announced Thursday that McAtasney was charged with murder, desecration of human remains, conspiracy to desecrate human remains, hindering apprehension and robbery.
Prosecutors said 19-year-old Preston Taylor was also 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.
“Friends of Sarah’s, they have been friends for years,” Mike Stern said. “I just don’t understand how the set of circumstances came about.”
Joe Connor owns the Taylor Hardware store in town. He coached Taylor in grade school basketball and McAtasney worked with his daughter and Sarah Stern’s dad was a regular customer at the shop.
“It’s horrible, no way to wrap your head around it. It’s terrible for everybody and everybody has some sort of attachment to one of these kids,” he said. “You held out hope that the girl, maybe she went away, she went to Florida, she would turn up one day. But you didn’t want this.”
Stern was an avid swimmer and softball player.
“She was a brilliant kid,” her father said. “I just miss her terribly.”