FREEHOLD --A former classmate told a friend he strangled Sarah Stern with such force that he lifted her off the ground and then watched for 30 minutes as she died in her home, prosecutors told a judge Tuesday morning.
Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Meghan Doyle told Superior Court Judge David Bauman said Liam McAtasney was aware of how long it took Sarah Stern to die because he time it.
"He knew because he timed it," Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Meghan Doyle said of Stern's accused killer, Liam McAtasney.
The new revelation in the disappearance and death of Sarah Stern came as prosecutors succeeded in convincing a Superior Court judge that McAtasney, 19, should not be released from jail while his case is pending.
McAtasney gave that description to a friend, who secretly videotaped a meeting between the two in which McAtasney provided details of the killing, Doyle said.
McAtasney's attorney, Charles Moriarty, did not fight the prosecution's attempt to keep his client behind bars, but after court, he insisted McAtasney is innocent.
"He didn't hurt her and wouldn't hurt her," Moriarty said.
Authorities on Feb. 2 charged McAtasney and his friend Preston Taylor, also 19, in the Dec. 2 disappearance and death of Stern, their 19-year-old friend who grew up with them in Neptune City.
Stern's car was found on the Route 35 bridge over the Shark River in Belmar early Dec. 3, sparking a search later that day of the river.
Prosecutors contend McAtasney strangled Stern in her home before robbing her of thousands of dollars. They say he left her there for 8 hours before he and Taylor returned to the house to retrieve her body and dump it over the side of the bridge.
McAtasney is charged with murder, felony murder, robbery, conspiracy, disposal of human remains and hindering apprehension.
Taylor is charged with conspiracy, disposal of human remains and hindering apprehension.
On Feb. 7, Bauman ordered Taylor to remain behind bars until his trial.s
During Taylor's detention hearing, prosecutors alleged that McAtasney planned for six months to rob and kill Stern for weeks and that he ordered Taylor to go to Stern's home after the robbery and remove her body from the house.
Taylor hid Stern's body under a bush at her house for eight hours before McAtasney and Taylor retrieved it, prosecutors said.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni has said that McAtasney robbed Stern of thousands of dollars. Investigators recovered two safes, one in Shark River Park and one in Sandy Hook, containing cash and articles of Stern's clothing, prosecutors said.
Taylor is the one who led detectives to the two safes, authorities said.
Prosecutors still have not said what led detectives to suspect McAtasney and Taylor were behind Stern's disappearance. The two grew up with Stern and went to Neptune High School with her. Taylor and Stern went to junior prom together.
Stern was considered a missing person for nearly two months before the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office announced it had made a break in the case and arrested McAtasney and Taylor.
Authorities have not recovered Stern's body.
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