FREEHOLD BOROUGH — The man convicted of murdering 19-year-old Sarah Stern is seeking to have a Monmouth County jury's verdict thrown out and to get a new trial.

Sentencing for Liam McAtasney, who in February was found guilty of the robbery and murder of his friend, had been scheduled for May 24 in Superior Court. But the sentencing has been postponed indefinitely until a judge rules on the defense motion.

The 21-year-old is facing life in prison.

McAtasney's trial lasted eight weeks and included testimony from his confessed accomplice as well as an undercover video in which McAtasney coldly recounts how he strangled Stern for her inheritance and then disposed of the body in the Shark River Inlet in late 2016. Her body was never recovered.

The jury handed up guilty verdicts on all seven counts with which he was charged: first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder, first-degree robbery, first-degree tampering with evidence, second-degree desecration of human remains, second-degree conspiracy to desecrate human remains, and second-degree hindering apprehension.

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

Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Chris Swendeman would not disclose details about the defense motion. McAtasney's attorney, Carlos Diaz-Cobo did not immediately return a request for comment.

Stern disappeared in December 2016. Her car was found on the Route 35 bridge between Belmar and Neptune Township.

Prosecutors said McAtasney killed her and then he and friend Preston Taylor threw her body off the bridge over the Shark River Inlet.

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. Taylor had been Stern's senior prom date in high school.

A flag football game for a scholarship fund in her memory is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Teachers from Neptune High School, Stern's alma mater, play in their second flag football game to benefit the Sarah Stern Scholarship fund at the Summerfield sports complex off Green Grove Road. The scholarship benefits a student studying visual, media or performing arts in college.

Sarah Stern
Michael Stern, Sarah Stern’s father, reacts in 2017 as Preston Taylor, 19, answers questions about his role in the murder of Sarah Stern. (Tanya Breen/Asbury Park Press-pool)

"We're going to have a fun night and raise some money for the scholarship," Stern's father, Michael, said. "This is our third year we're awarding scholarships for Neptune High School arts students. We want to continue that, keep Sarah's name out there and the great work she did."

The scholarship will be at least $1,000 with the final amount and number of scholarships awarded dependent on how much money is raised, according to Stern.

Stern said that he is waiting for sentencing before going forward with other activities related to the scholarship and is also involved with several media projects related to his daughter's death including a "Dateline NBC" special on Friday night.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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