Sarah Stern murder: NJ man who helped roommate throw her body off a bridge for money sentenced to 18 years in jail
Taylor pleaded guilty and testified against his roommate, Liam McAtasney, 21. McAtasney strangled Stern, who was his classmate, in December 2016 and with Taylor's help threw her body off a bridge to make it look like a suicide.
A 22-year-old New Jersey man who helped in dumping the body of his junior prom date from off the Route 35 bridge in Belmar, NJ, after his roommate murdered her in a bid to steal $10,000 from her has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.
On Friday, Neptune City's Preston Taylor apologized for his role in the 2016 greed-fueled killing of 19-year-old Sarah Stern before Superior Court Judge Richard W. English handed down the sentence. "So many things about this scenario I wish I could take back," Taylor said. "I should have known better and done something to stop this and I wish more than anything I had. I'm sorry."
Stern's father, however, had no intention of hearing Taylor speak – Michael Stern walked out of the courtroom, according to reports in Asbury Park Press.
Taylor is ordered to serve 85 percent of his sentence before he becomes eligible for parole, which means that he will have to spend at least 15 years in prison before he could be considered for a release.
His 21-year-old roommate Liam McAtasney was convicted in February for strangling his childhood friend Stern. Last week, McAtasney was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Testifying against McAtasney during his trial, Taylor pleaded guilty to six charges involving robbery and the treatment of human remains. In exchange for his full cooperation and testimony, prosecutors agreed to not charge him with felony murder.
Taylor took Stern to junior prom and told the court that he had removed her body from her home in Neptune City just hours after McAtasney stranged her on December 2, 2016. He admitted to helping McAtasney throw her body off the Route 35 bridge in Belmar before leaving her car and keys behind to make it look like a suicide.
Their goal was to steal what they believed was $100,000 in a house owned by the Stern family. McAtasney was also guilty of stealing almost $10,000 of what Stern's mother had left to her and burying it. Taylor was promised a little more than a third of that sum as his cut.
Authorities were investigating Stern's disappearance as a missing person case until January 2017 when filmmaker Anthony Curry, a classmate of theirs, informed the police that McAtasney had told him of his plans to rob and kill Stern for some money she recently had found.
Before his sentencing, Taylor's attorney John Perrone asked the judge for a more lenient sentence of 10 years in prison, pointing out that his client's cooperation was critical to frame McAtasney.
Prosecutor Christopher Decker, however, asked for a stricter sentence – 15-20-year prison term – arguing that it was in Taylor's power to stop McAtasney from murdering Stern, but chose not to instead. "But for Preston Taylor, Sarah Stern would still be here," he said.