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Handcuffs and key sitting on fingerprints

The Murder of Sarah Stern

Unsplash | Bill Oxford
By A. Elise

Teenager Sarah Stern was reported missing in December of 2016. Stern was ultimately found to have been murdered in 2019, and her murderers were brought to justice. But what happened to Sarah, and why?

Many news features have covered Sarah's story and explored the murder trial that led to some of the answers her family needed. On March 27, a rerun of ABC News' 20/20 will delve into Sarah Stern's murder and the shocking, unexpected perpetrators of such a heinous act.

Sarah Stern
thenancygrace | Instagram

Sarah's disappearance began when an Uber driver saw an Oldsmobile stopped on a bridge connecting Avon-by-the-Sea and Belmar, New Jersey. The Oldsmobile belonged to Sarah's grandmother, and the keys were still inside the car. There was no sign of a driver.

Many people initially believed that the case looked like a suicide. One of Sarah's close friends, Liam McAtasney, even told investigators that Sarah had been suicidal in the past. He also told officers that Sarah was having some problems with her father.

Preston Taylor
asburyparkpress | Instagram

Two months after Liam talked to investigators, he was arrested for strangling Sarah. He was not the only one. A man named Preston Taylor was also charged.

Both Liam and Preston had shown up to be part of the search party looking for Sarah that cold December, knowing what they had done.

Liam faced charges of first-degree murder, felony murder, robbery, and several other crimes. Preston faced allegations of hindering prosecution, conspiring to disturb human remains, and disturbing human remains.

The motive for Sarah's death? It all came down to money.

Exterior of courthouse
Unsplash | Sebastian Pichler

Apparently, Liam thought he would receive $100,000 if he robbed Sarah. He had apparently been with Sarah when she discovered that her mother had left her a box of money when she passed away. Liam told Preston that the box contained $100,000. Together, the two conspired to take that money.

Knowing that Sarah had cash, Liam went to Sarah's house and strangled her. He left with $9,000. The box had contained less money than he thought, and Sarah had already spent much of that.

Empty courtroom
Gettyimages | Comstock

The truth came to light during a confession in January 2017 when Liam told a friend that Sarah had received a large sum of money. A videotaped confession exists in which Liam tells this friend that the amount of money was much less than he expected. He admitted that he killed Sarah and that he doesn't think about it anymore.

Liam was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years. Sarah's body has not been found.

For more details about Sarah's life and death, tune in to 20/20 on Friday, March 27.

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