NEPTUNE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A judge ruled Thursday in key evidence in the murder of a New Jersey teacher.
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, prosecutors said they have a taped confession – but will the judge allow it?
Police body camera footage was shown in court Thursday. It was recorded just hours after the car belonging to Sarah Stern, 19, was found sitting empty on the Belmar Bridge in December 2016.
Police knocked on the door of Liam Liam McAtasney, who was later arrested and charged with the Neptune City woman’s murder.
“This young girl is off the grid all of a sudden, and nobody knows why,” a police officer is seen telling McAtasney in the bodycam video, “and you were basically the last person who had contact with her.”
On Thursday, Judge Richard English ruled that the recordings and others during the search for Stern can be used in the trial of McAtasney, 20. He is accused of strangling Stern in her home during a robbery and later dumping her body off the bridge – with the help of his roommate, Preston Taylor, who attended prom with Stern.
The interview captured on the body camera showed McAtasney alluding to a bad relationship between Stern and her father.
“I know her dad’s taken money from her in the past. I think her mom was supposed to leave her money or something. I know she definitely has a lot of trust issues with her dad, so I’ve just been trying to help her out with that,” McAtasney says in the interview. “I’ve been friends with her since first grade, so we have a pretty good friendship.”
McAtasney then told police Stern may have run away to Canada – or worse.
“In the past, she has had a tendency to kind of self-destructive suicidal behavior,” he said.
An alleged confession, secretly recorded by acquaintance Anthony Curry, is a key piece of evidence in prosecutors’ case. It has only been viewed in a closed chamber.
“It’s hard to even call it an alleged confession, because he confessed,” said Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Decker.
The defense wants it thrown out, saying Curry was used by police to circumvent McAtasney’s lawyers.
“Who was in control at the point of Anthony Curry?” said defense attorney Charles Moriarty. “He’s no longer Anthony Curry, private citizen. He’s now become the agent of the Prosecutor’s office. Anthony curry a private agent.”
Prosecutors argued that it does not matter, saying McAtasney had no right to an attorney when he talked to Curry because he was not in police custody.
Judge English will make a decision on March 26 on whether or not the alleged confession will be admissible during trial.
Taylor took a plea deal and will testify against McAtasney. He told the court the plan was for the two friends to split $10,000 they allegedly stole from Stern.