New York

Former Prom Date Helped Dump New Jersey Student's Body After His Roommate Killed Her: Prosecutors

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

The high school prom date who's now a suspected accomplice in the murder of 19-year-old Sarah Stern allegedly confessed to helping his roommate dispose of her body, prosecutors said in court Tuesday.

As Preston Taylor appeared in court for a bail hearing, prosecutors said he told police last week that his roommate Liam McAtansey planned Stern's murder for six months. 

All three were hometown acquaintances in Neptune City, and McAtasney himself was a childhood friend of Stern, according to prosecutors. After Stern went missing last December, some had hoped she simply ran away after withdrawing thousands of dollars from her bank account.

But prosecutors allege McAtansey has been plotting to rob Stern before killing her. 

Taylor told police that McAtansey said to him, "I'm at the bank, I'm going to do it now, I'm going to take her out," according to Assistant Montmouth County Prosecutor Meghan Doyle.

The roommates then allegedly dumped Stern's body off the Route 35 bridge in Belmar after hiding it in the bushes behind her home for eight hours. 

Stern's clothing was found in one small safe buried on Sandy Hook, and thouands of dollars in cash in another safe buried at a Neptune park. 

When Taylor confessed to police, he showed no remorse, according to prosecutors. He had taken Stern to junior prom just a few years ago. 

"He is not concerned about what he did but about what's going to happen to him," said Doyle. 

Taylor's father, Jeremy Taylor, took the stand to plead for his son's release while awaiting trial, promising the court, "Your Honor, I will stay with him all the time." 

Ultimately, judge David Bauman ruled to keep Taylor locked up after hearing testimony about a witness fearful for his own safety. Taylor will be kept in jail unless he appeals the detention.

McAtansey, accused of the actual killing, has his detention hearing next week. 

Meanwhile, the search for Stern's body continues. 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. 

Investigators returned there last Friday to continue looking, acknowledging that it's possible currents and tides may have swept her body out to the Atlantic, but Monmouth Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni said at the time, "We are hoping for a miracle." 

Stern, an aspiring artist, 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.

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. 

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