A New Jersey man was found guilty Tuesday of murdering his childhood friend and throwing her body off a bridge, all so he could steal money she'd inherited from her dead mother.
Liam McAtasney was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder in the 2016 death of his close friend and former high school classmate, 19-year-old Sarah Stern.
Prosecutors said McAtasney planned the attack for weeks, stealing several thousand dollars Stern had inherited from her mother, who died of cancer in 2013, before choking her to death.
McAtasney, now 21, was also found guilty of conspiracy, desecrating human remains and other charges, according to ABC News. He faces possible life behind bars. His attorney maintained his innocence, citing a lack physical evidence.
Prosecutors say McAtasney had his roommate Preston Taylor, who happened to be the victim’s prom date, help him dump the body in a river. Stern’s body was never found but police discovered her car with the keys in the ignition, not far from a bridge, hours after she went missing. Authorities say McAtasney staged it that way to make it appear as though Stern committed suicide.
Taylor, who testified against McAtasney, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery, second-degree conspiracy to commit robbery and second-degree disturbing or desecrating human remains. He is expected to be sentenced this summer.
During his trial, the prosecution played a secretly recorded video of McAtasney confessing to a friend that he killed his former friend.
“I pretty much hung her. I picked her up and had her dangling off the ground. It took me a half hour to kill her. I set a timer,” McAtasney said in the video, which was published online by the Asbury Park Press. “I thought I would be able to choke her out and have her out in like a couple of minutes.”
In that disturbing footage, McAtasney callously mentioned that Stern’s dog didn’t help her and instead "laid there and watched as I killed her." He called that the “biggest problem’ of the whole incident.
The victim's father, Michael Stern, told media after the verdict that his daughter "was a great kid, and this never should have happened liked this."
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