Prosecutors say a Monmouth County man accused of killing a woman during a robbery told a friend that he strangled her with such force that he lifted her off the ground and watched for 30 minutes as she died in her home.
The details emerged Tuesday during a hearing where a judge ruled that 19-year-old Liam McAtasney will remain jailed until his trial.
The judge’s decision to keep McAtasney detained was based on dangerousness to the community and the possibility that McAtasney could obstruct the criminal justice process, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher S. Gramiccioni said.
Prosecutors told the judge that the Neptune City man watched the clock as Sarah Stern was dying. They say he gave the description of the killing to a friend, who secretly videotaped their meeting.
Authorities say McAtasney recruited 19-year-old Preston Taylor to help him dump her body over a bridge. Both were arrested about two weeks ago.
The men were both longtime friends of Stern’s and Taylor was her junior prom date.
Last week, a judge granted the state’s request to detain Taylor after agreeing that the Neptune City man may try to interfere with the case.
Prosecutors say Taylor confessed that he first hid Stern’s body in the bushes of her home before later helping toss her body off a bridge in Belmar.
Stern’s car was found parked, with the keys in the vehicle, on the Route 35 bridge over the Shark River connecting Neptune and Belmar shortly before 3 a.m. on Dec. 3.
Volunteers fanned out throughout the area the following week to search for Stern, and authorities offered a $5,000 reward. Police discovered her house unlocked when they checked the same day her vehicle was discovered.
Police boats and helicopters were back on the Shark River and the nearby ocean to search for Stern’s body after the arrests.
“We’re looking for some kind of miracle,” he said.