FREEHOLD, NJ — The Neptune City man who was the accomplice in the murder of Sarah Stern was sentenced today to 18 years in prison for his role in the 19-year-old’s death.

Preston Taylor, 22, will serve at least 85 percent of the sentence, imposed by Superior Court Judge Richard English on June 28, before he is eligible for parole. Taylor struck a plea deal that led to the conviction of Liam McAtasney for the murder of Stern, whose body has never been found since she went missing on December 2, 2016.

Taylor pleaded guilty on April 24, 2017 for his role in the robbery and murder of Stern by Liam McAtasney, who was sentenced to life in prison on June 21. Taylor assisted McAtasney in discarding Stern’s body off of the Route 35 bridge over the Shark River between Belmar and Neptune, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

Sign Up for E-News

Taylor was convicted of first-degree armed robbery, second-degree conspiracy, second-degree desecration of human remains, third-degree hindering apprehension of oneself, third-degree hindering apprehension of another and fourth-degree tampering with evidence.  Upon release, Taylor would be subject to the provisions of parole supervision for five years.

Detectives determined that McAtasney was responsible for killing Stern and stealing property from her on December 2, 2016.  The investigation also revealed that Taylor provided assistance to McAtasney in the planning of the robbery and moving and ultimately disposing of Stern’s body in order to avoid detection, Trial testimony revealed that at approximately 2 a.m. on Saturday, December 3, 2016, the Neptune Township Police Department responded to an abandoned vehicle on the Route 35 bridge. Neptune police then contacted the Neptune City Police Department to request a welfare check of the registered owner of the vehicle. Upon arrival at the address of the registered owner, who was Stern’s grandmother, the residence was found unlocked but no one was home. Further investigation determined Sarah Stern was the missing driver of the vehicle and her family did not know of her whereabouts.

As a result of Stern’s vehicle being found unoccupied and on the bridge, the Belmar Water Rescue Team was called to search Shark River for any evidence of her body. It was assisted by the U.S Coast Guard, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, the Area Network of Shore Water Emergency Responders Team and the New Jersey State Police. Divers, boats and helicopters from those units searched the Shark River, but attempts to locate Stern’s body were unsuccessful.

On Sunday, December 4, 2016, detectives from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office joined the investigation in an effort to locate Stern. Those detectives and the Belmar and Neptune City Police Departments continued to investigate her whereabouts. The New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also assisted in this investigation.

During the investigation, a suspected former friend of McAtasney’s came forward to authorities with information as to McAtasney’s involvement in the killing.  Detectives from the prosecutor’s Office surreptitiously video-recorded a subsequent conversation between the two men.  In that video, which was played before the jury, McAtasney admitted to the murder and provided graphic details of the slaying.  

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutors Christopher J. Decker, director of the Office’s Major Crimes Bureau and Meghan Doyle, director of the Cold Case & Fatal Accident Unit.

TAPinto Belmar/Lake Como is Belmar and Lake Como’s only free daily newspaper. Accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, it is the official electronic newspaper of both municipalities. As a locally owned news organization, TAPinto through its advertisers is able to publish online, objective news 24/7 at no charge. Sign up for its free daily e-News, and follow it on Facebook and Twitter.

Download the free TAPinto App!  Click here for Android - Click here for iOS to get news as it is happening.