Liam McAtasney was found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery, felony murder, desecration of human remains and obstruction of a criminal investigation on June 21. The conviction followed an investigation that devastated a community — most of all, Michael Stern, father of 19-year-old Sarah, whom McAtasney strangled to death, then threw over a bridge.
The case took a number of horrific and heartbreaking turns, related by veteran prosecutor and television analyst Nancy Grace on this week’s episode of “Injustice,” which airs on Oxygen Saturday nights.
None, perhaps, were quite so horrific, however, as the secretly recorded video of Liam McAtasney confessing to his friend, Anthony Curry, the details of Sarah’s agonizing death.
Two months after Sarah Stern’s disappearance, after McAtasney had been questioned by police, and raised their suspicions with an odd question about how far Sarah’s body might have floated if she jumped off the bridge, police got a major tip from Curry.
A horror filmmaker, Curry told police that McAtasney had pitched a bizarre idea for a film to him before Sarah’s disappearance: What if the friends strangled Sarah to death, stole tens of thousands of dollars she allegedly inherited from her recently deceased mother and threw her body over a bridge?
“Wouldn’t that be a great story?” McAtasney asked Curry, according to those interviewed for “Injustice With Nancy Grace.”
Police were already suspicious of McAtasney and, armed with Curry’s story, convinced the young filmmaker to bug his car and meet with McAtasney — who proved disturbingly eager to share all the details of Sarah’s death.
Portions of the video are featured in Episode 5 of “Injustice With Nancy Grace.”
McAtasney began the conversation by griping about the amount of money he walked away from the murder with, while Curry played it cool, in the car, while police listened in.
“I thought I was walking out with 50 G’s, 100 G’s,” McAtasney complained in another portion of the video, which was played for jurors at trial. “She only had 10G, and this money — I dunno if it was burnt or something … all the money was terrible quality. I don’t even know if I can put any of it in the bank.”
In the middle of explaining that it took 30 minutes for Sarah to die, McAtasney, bizarrely, took a left turn into musing on the murdered girl’s dog, and chuckling at the fact that it did not defend its owner.
“Her dog laid there and watched as I killed her,” McAtasney said. “It didn’t do anything … What kinda dog is that? It looked like a beagle, but it sounds like a Great Dane.”
McAtasney also told Curry that he initially left his phone at Sarah’s house after murdering her, because he had to run to work.
“Dude, what were you doing?” Curry can be heard asking his friend, as police listened.
“Strangling someone,” McAtasney chuckled in response.
Chillingly, McAtasney even described Sarah’s physical state as he choked the life out of her.
“I pretty much hung her — like, I picked her up and had her dangling off the ground,” he said to his friend. “She pissed herself and said my name, and that was it.”
This portion outraged even the seasoned prosecutor in Nancy Grace.
“He said the last thing she said was ‘Liam,’” Grace said on the show. “With her last breath, her dying breath, she begged for mercy — and he had none.”
After “choking her out,” McAtasney said on the video, Sarah Stern was just “laying there, like, having a seizure for a couple minutes,” before he stuffed a shirt into her mouth and set a timer on his phone.
“It took me like a half an hour after I hit start,” he said.
McAtasney’s apparent takeaway from this chilling, graphic description of how he ended an innocent 19-year-old girl’s life?
“This is the thing about, like, heists. There’s so much that you can’t account for; you don’t know before it happens.”
Curry’s courage in meeting McAtasney and recording the conversation for police led to the successful prosecution of both McAtasney and his friend — and Sarah’s prom date, according to “Injustice” — Preston Taylor.
To hear the whole story, including heart-wrenching words from Sarah’s father and firsthand accounts from law enforcement of how they closed the net on McAtasney and Taylor, watch Episode 5 of “Injustice With Nancy Grace” on Oxygen.com. And catch new episodes Saturday nights at 6 p.m. ET/PT.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.