Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Most Unhappy Ending

A bit less than two months ago in this space, I wrote of the disappearance of Michael Stern's nineteen-year-old daughter, Sarah, whose car, in the wee small hours of a bitterly cold December morning, was found abandoned on a bridge in Belmar that spans the Shark River and connects Belmar to Neptune City, and his Herculean efforts to bring his daughter - his only child - home.  Through absolutely no fault of his own, those efforts failed.  

On Thursday, authorities revealed the reason behind the failure. 

Liam McAtasney and Preston Taylor made their initial appearance on Thursday afternoon in the Monmouth County Superior Courthouse before the Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division, the Hon. David Bauman.  McAtasney, nineteen, is charged with first-degree felony murder, robbery, desecration of human remains, conspiracy to desecrate human remains and hindering apprehension. Taylor, also nineteen, is charged with desecration of human remains, conspiracy to desecrate human remains, hindering apprehension and contempt.   

According to information thus far disclosed publicly by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, the working theory of what transpired is the following:   On the night of December 2, 2016, McAtasney went to the home of his friend and former high school classmate, Sarah Stern, intending to rob her.  He ended up murdering her by strangling her.  Having killed her, he realized that he needed to cover up his crime.  He telephoned Taylor, who was a high school classmate of Sarah's and McAtasney's and who, according to a photograph on Sarah Stern's Facebook page, attended their high school's 2014 prom with Sarah, and solicited Taylor's assistance to get her body out of her house and to dispose of it.  Sarah's car was driven to the Route 35 bridge, with her body inside of it, and after throwing her body off of the bridge and into the Shark River, her car was left on the bridge, keys in the ignition, to help create the impression, perhaps, that Sarah had taken her own life. 

Authorities disclosed that Sarah had disappeared after withdrawing a large amount of money from the bank.  It is alleged that McAtasney knew of the withdrawal and came to her home on December 2 to rob her.  He ended up killing her.  Michael Stern had been holding out hope that his only child had simply taken off for a while (run away, if you will) with her bankroll and that he would at some point hear from her and she would come home to him.  Late Wednesday night, the Prosecutor's Office told him that was not to be.   Three years ago, his wife died.  Now, his daughter has been killed.  If there is a limit to what one person is forced to take, then I would hope that whoever makes such a determination agrees that Michael Stern has taken considerably more than his fair share.   

I cannot fathom what Michael Stern has endured since December 2, 2016 and what he shall continue to endure going forward.  As a father, I have tremendous empathy for him.  If he gets through this without his heart being consumed in its entirety by vengeance than he is a markedly better and stronger man than I am and could ever hope to be.



Evanh said...

Heartbreaking...the poor man. And Sarah, left all alone.

William Kenny said...

The father in me hopes they dig a new, deeper hole to stick the miscreants in (assuming due process and proof of guilt) which leaves me absolutely empty-handed and empty-hearted facing a father whose degree of grief I hope to never experience.