FREEHOLD BOROUGH — A jury found Liam McAtasney guilty of the robbery and murder of Sarah Stern, whose car was found abandoned on a bridge two years ago but whose body was never found.

McAtasney, 21, faces life in prison with no chance of parole when he is sentenced.

Stern disappeared in December 2016. Her car was found on the Route 35 bridge in Belmar. Prosecutors said McAtasney killed her and then he and friend Preston Taylor threw her body off the bridge.

Taylor pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery, second-degree conspiracy to commit robbery, and second-degree disturbing or desecrating human remains, and agreed to testify against McAtasney.

The panel got the case late Monday afternoon and deliberated for about two hours. On Tuesday, they reviewed a secretly recorded conversation in which an emotionless McAtasney discussed in detail how he killed Stern for her inheritance and disposed of her body.

The panel also reviewed McAtasney's taped interviews with police and a neighbor's surveillance video.

Liam McAtasney (L) and Preston Taylor at their pre-indictment hearing in Freehold
Liam McAtasney (L) and Preston Taylor at their pre-indictment hearing in Freehold (Thomas Costello, Asbury Park Press pool photos)

Defense attorney Carlos Diaz-Cobo called the recorded conversation an elaborate lie that McAtasney told to impress the amateur horror filmmaker with whom he was conversing. The lawyer compared it to an audition.

The defense also presented a witness who testified that he saw a woman who looked like Stern alive a day after she was reported missing. The defense tried to convince the jury that McAtasney could not be guilty of murder unless there was a body.

McAtasney has been held at the Monmouth County Jail since his arrest.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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