Did a 21-year-old man kill his childhood friend over thousands of dollars she found in a shoe box?
Prosecutors say Liam McAtasney killed his 19-year-old friend Sarah Stern in New Jersey in December 2016 and then sought the help of his roommate, Preston Taylor, to dispose of her body by throwing it over a bridge. Her remains have never been found.
The motive? He allegedly wanted cash Stern had found in her family's storage unit, according to the Asbury Park Press. Prosecutors say McAtasney strangled Stern and took her money, which was apparently much less than what he thought.
A key witness in the case is Taylor, who is testifying against his former roommate after taking a plea deal in the case. Stern was also Taylor's one-time prom date.
In his testimony, Taylor claimed that he and McAtasney took Stern's body to the bridge after the murder and tossed her remains over the edge into Shark River in an attempt to make it appear as though her death was a suicide.
Taylor said that when McAtasney first told him about the shoe box full of money, he believed it contained somewhere in the amount of $100,000. But the real sum was much less, just around $10,000.
Initially, they planned to rob her, according to Taylor, but eventually they decided the easiest way to make off with the money would be to kill her.
But McAtasney's lawyer said Taylor is lying. "His testimony is untruthful, it's false, it's imagined, erroneous and not credible," defense attorney Carlos Diaz-Cobo said in his opening statement.
McAtasney denies having anything to do with Stern's death. Bodycam footage from when Stern initially went missing shows McAtasney pointing the finger at Stern's father.
"I know that her dad has taken money from her in the past," McAtasney said at the time.
Now, Stern's father is in court for McAtasney's trial. "It's been hard for me," he told News12NJ.
If found guilty, McAtasney could face life in prison.