FREEHOLD, N.J. — A lawyer for a man accused of strangling a friend during a robbery and throwing her body off a New Jersey bridge said Wednesday that his client made up stories about planning to rob and kill the victim as part of a horror film an acquaintance was making.
Liam McAtasney's attorney, Charles Moriarty, made the claim during a hearing where he unsuccessfully sought to have a judge dismiss a murder indictment against McAtasney.
Moriarty told state Superior Court Judge Richard English that the acquaintance told detectives that McAtasney was "always making things up to be more interesting."
Police say the acquaintance secretly record McAtasney confessing to the crime. Moriarty is seeking to have that recording excluded from evidence at McAtasney's upcoming trial.
Monmouth County prosecutors say the 20-year-old Neptune City man killed 19-year-old Sarah Stern on Dec. 2, 2016, during a robbery that netted $10,000. Her abandoned car was found on the side of the Route 35 bridge in Belmar the next day.
Stern's body has never been found.
McAtasney's friend, Preston Taylor, has said he helped him dump the body. The men were longtime friends of Stern's and Taylor was her junior prom date. Taylor has pleaded guilty to his role in the robbery plot and tossing Stern's body from the bridge and has agreed to testify against McAtasney.
Moriarty also sought to have McAtasney's interviews with police from before his arrest, videos of which were played in court Wednesday, excluded from the trial, reports NJ.com. In the body camera videos, McAtasney tells police he doesn't know where Stern is and speculates she might be in Canada, the website reports. He also says she had a contentious relationship with her father and had talked about harming herself.
Authorities have said McAtasney was attempting to mislead investigators.