FREEHOLD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Tuesday was an emotional day in a New Jersey courtroom as the father of a missing teenager testified about his last moments with his only child.
Prosecutors say Sarah Stern was murdered by high school friends.
Stern’s father Michael Stern wiped away tears after reading the final messages exchanged with his daughter in December 2016.
“Sarah, where are you?” he read.
Michael Stern went face to face with his 19-year-old daughter’s alleged killer, pointing at 21-year-old Liam McAtasney.
“Do you have any independent recollection of this defendant coming near you? Calling on you? Checking on you? Asking what he can do to help find Sarah?” asked assistant prosecutor Meghan Doyle.
Stern replied “no” to each question.
The defense said otherwise.
“You are aware, however that Liam did participate in that search that was organized?” asked attorney Carlos Diaz-Cobo.
“Yes,” Stern replied.
Prosecutors allege McAtasney and his roommate, Preston Taylor, wanted to rob Stern of inheritance money left by her late mother.
Taylor has testified McAtasney strangled Stern, then the two dumped her body off the Route 35 bridge in Belmar.
The defense argues Sarah ran away or committed suicide.
“Were you made aware that she was packing things up while you were in Florida?” asked Diaz-Cobo.
“No,” Michael Stern replied.
Prosecutors showed evidence of a positive relationship with her father. Michael Stern read a message Sarah posted on social media on her birthday.
“My dad knows me so well with about four exclamation points and hashtag Nutella, emoji smiley face with a couple of hearts and Timberlands, and then a snowflake, and then hashtag my dad’s the best,” Stern read.
The night Stern disappeared in December of 2016, landline phone records inside the Stern home show four phone calls to McAtasney’s phone. His former roommate testified he could not find that same night.
Her body has not been found.