The day after 19-year-old Sarah Stern went missing in December, hundreds of volunteers fanned out across the New Jersey shore searching for her. Among them were two childhood friends now charged in her murder, Liam McAtasney and Preston Taylor, both 19. McAtasney was charged with first-degree murder and is accused of robbing and strangling Stern. Taylor, Stern's date for the junior prom, was charged with helping throw her body into the Shark River in Belmar, the Asbury Park Press reports. Stern's car was found early on Dec. 3 parked on a bridge, the keys still in the ignition. Her body has not been found. Stern's family and friends are struggling to understand how the teen's one-time best friends could have turned against her.
Growing up, the trio, who graduated from Neptune High School in 2015, was "literally inseparable," a classmate says. "If you had a model of a best friend group, then that was them." Stern's heartbroken father, Michael Stern, thought his only child was still part of "one big, happy group." He adds, "I guess people change." Authorities have identified robbery as a possible motive behind the killing. Sources told News 12 that authorities found two safe deposit boxes stuffed with valuables taken from the Stern home. Two days after Stern disappeared on Dec. 2, McAtasney abruptly quit his longtime job as a waiter. Hours later, he was among the masses searching for her. "I can't believe the deceit and lies," Michael Stern says. "It takes your breath away."