The New Jersey 19-year-old accused of murdering a childhood friend confessed to planning the robbery that led to Sarah Stern's murder for weeks, police say. Police say Liam McAtasney also admitted, while talking with a friend who secretly recorded the conversation, that he strangled 19-year-old Sarah Stern during the planned robbery and watched her die for 30 minutes. "He knew exactly how long it was because he chose to time it," said a prosecutor, per NJ.com. The revelations came during a hearing Tuesday at which McAtasney was ordered held without bail as he awaits trial, the Asbury Park Press reports. During the same conversation, McAtasney also said he and a friend dumped Stern's body in the Shark River. That friend, Preston Taylor, another childhood friend of Stern's who once took her to junior prom, is facing charges including disturbing human remains.
McAtasney's attorney downplayed the recorded conversation as "locker-room talk," and says that his client has "indicated to me that whatever was said, he had nothing to do with this. He wouldn't hurt anyone, and he didn't hurt her." The lawyer adds that what McAtasney says in the recording is nearly identical to what Taylor told police, which makes him think the teens made the story up: "Both boys seem to be talking about something that didn't happen. They're talking about something that was scripted." He says Stern, whose car was found abandoned in December but whose body has not been found, could still be alive, but also adds that neighbors say she seemed suicidal on the day prosecutors believe she was murdered. She was reportedly giving away things that had belonged to her mom, who died several years ago. She "had some problems," he said.