New York

Search Effort Renewed for Missing 19-Year-Old New Jersey Woman After 2 Childhood Friends Accused of Killing Her

Sarah Stern was last seen at her Neptune City home Dec. 2; her body has never been found

What to Know

  • Sarah Stern vanished from her Neptune City home the afternoon of Dec. 2
  • Her fully operational vehicle was found on the side of the Route 35 Bridge in Belmar; investigators found no evidence in the water
  • The young woman's body still hasn't been found

Investigators returned to a New Jersey river Friday to continue their search for the body of Sarah Stern, the 19-year-old woman who was allegedly killed and thrown off a bridge after a botched robbery at her home in early December. 

Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni, who joined law enforcement at the Route 35 Bridge in Belmar, said the search would be difficult, but investigators were hopeful for resolution. 

"The search of the Shark River continues as we partner with the State Police and we hope to locate the remains of Sarah Ster," he said. It is possible due to oceanic currents and tides that her remains might have been swept out of the river into the Atlantic. But we are hoping for a miracle."

The search to locate Stern's remains is expected to continue into the weekend.

A day earlier, his office announced the arrests of two 19-year-old men in connection with Stern's death. One, a childhood friend named Liam McAtasney, is accused of strangling the aspiring artist. The other, Preston Taylor, is accused of helping McAtasney get rid of the body. 

Prosecutors say Taylor was also a longtime acquaintance of Stern. All three lived in Neptune City. Gramiccioni would not go into detail Friday on what evidence his office has against the defendants.

Divers and helicopter units first scoured the Shark River in early December after finding Stern's fully operational car parked on the shoulder of the southbound lanes of the bridge, the keys still in the ignition, Dec. 3. It was the day after she had last been seen. Many assumed she had jumped off. Prosecutors say some had hoped she simply ran away after withdrawing thousands of dollars from her bank account. 

A Crime Stoppers tip led police to McAtasney as their suspect, alleging he somehow knew about the cash withdrawal and came to Stern's home to rob her. McAtasney is charged with felony murder and other crimes in Stern's death; Taylor is accused of hindering apprehension and concealment of human remains, among other offenses. Both men appeared in court Thursday; it wasn't clear if either entered a plea.

No one answered the door at their respective homes Friday.

Stern's father, Michael, was in court for the initial hearing. An attorney asked media to respect the grieving father's privacy, and said Michael Stern was feeling "overwhelmed, as any parent would be." 

Stern is a graduate of Neptune High School, where she played softball and was a member of the swim team. She went to Brookdale Community College for a year, where she studied art and TV production.

Contact Us