Dad: Men charged in woman's death were her lifelong friends

FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) " The father of a 19-year-old woman strangled during a robbery said Friday the two men charged in her death were her lifelong friends " and one was her prom date.

Sarah Stern went to grammar school and high school with the two men, who are both 19 and live in Neptune City, her father Michael Stern told NJ.com (http://bit.ly/2kaTPKZ ). Liam McAtasney was charged Thursday with Stern's murder. Preston Taylor is charged with helping dump the body.

Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said McAtasney strangled Stern on Dec. 2 at her Neptune City home while he robbed her of thousands of dollars. He said Taylor " at McAtasney's request " helped throw her body over the side of a bridge into the Shark River in Belmar early the following morning.

Stern said he's trying to process how the two men he used to drive to school as kids could have been involved in his daughter's death.

"When I heard this, nothing made any sense anymore," he said.

Michael Stern said Taylor took his daughter to the prom.

Sarah Stern had been missing since Dec. 3 after her car was found with keys in the ignition on the bridge over the Shark River.

Stern said he had been holding out hope that his daughter just wanted some time away.

"It was better with Sarah being missing. Maybe she had left without telling anybody. Maybe she just wanted to get away," he told the news site. "I didn't think she was killed, murdered. It's just a horrible thing to hear."

The search for her body resumed Friday.

Attorneys for both men didn't immediately return calls seeking comment on the charges.

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Information from: NJ.com, http://www.nj.com

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Information from: NJ.com, http://www.nj.com

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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