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N.J. Man Convicted Of Murdering Childhood Friend Sarah Stern Gets Life Sentence

FREEHOLD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey man convicted of murdering his childhood friend was given a mandatory life sentence without parole.

Liam McAtasney, 21, showed no reaction as the judge sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole for murdering 19-year-old Sarah Stern. He chose to say nothing when the judge asked if he had anything to say.

Judge Richard English also sentenced McAtasney to 20 years on first degree robbery, a consecutive term of 10 years on second degree disturbing or desecrating human remains and a concurrent five year term on third degree hindering for a total sentence of life without parole consecutive to 10 years.

Liam McAtasney
Neptune murder suspect Liam McAtasney in court on Feb. 14, 2017. (credit: CBS2)

Back in 2016, McAtasney killed Stern, who he'd known since he was about 6 years old. He wanted to steal the money she inherited when her mother died.

Prosecutors played a secretly taped conversation between McAtasney and his friend Anthony Curry, who cooperated with police, about how long it took to strangle Stern in her home in Neptune City.

"I got a shirt and I just shoved it down her throat so she wouldn't throw up or anything," McAtasney said in the recording, "and held my finger over her nose and set a timer. That's the only time I had my phone, and it took me, like, a half an hour after I hit start."

McAtasney and his friend Preston Taylor then threw Stern's body off a bridge in Belmar into the Shark River, leaving her car abandoned with keys in the ignition in an attempt to make it look like she killed herself.

"He tried to cover his tracks to try to blame the person who he killed for her own death by somehow claiming that she might have committed suicide or might have run away," Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said.

Her body was never found.

Stern's father, who stood just inches away from her killer, talked about his only child after the sentencing.

"I love my daughter and everybody else did, too," Michael Stern said. "She's a good kid. She was a talented artist. She was a rising star. Her life ended way too soon."

With the life sentence, Stern could finally smile and thank the many people who helped convict his daughter's killer.

"I miss her. I cry for her every night. I'm just glad that finally justice is served," Stern said.

Taylor, who actually took Stern to the junior prom, accepted a plea deal and will be sentenced next Friday. He faces 10 to 20 years in prison.

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