19-year-old who helped friend hide body of NJ teen pleads guilty

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Sarah Stern was reported missing on Dec. 2.

FREEHOLD, N.J. — The 19-year-old who helped helped his friend cover up the killing of Sarah Stern pleaded guilty in court today, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Preston Taylor helped his friend Liam McAtasney dump Stern’s body over a bridge into a river in December. He pleaded guilty to robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, desecrating human remains and tampering with evidence.

McAtasney admitted in February that he plotted to kill Stern, court documents show. He took her to a bank to withdraw $7,000 and then strangled her with such force that he lifted her off the ground and watched for 30 minutes as she died.

The men were both longtime friends of Stern’s and Taylor was her junior prom date. Taylor – who now faces up to 20 years in a New Jersey state prison – agreed to testify against codefendant McAtasney.

Police arrested McAtasney and Taylor on Feb. 2 – two full months after Stern’s disappearance.

Officers began searching for Stern when her unoccupied silver Oldsmobile was found on the shoulder of Route 35 Bridge in Belmar. The keys were still in the ignition.

Police checked her Neptune City home, too. It was unlocked and no one was inside.

Divers searched Shark River for days, but no body was found.