FREEHOLD, NJ (CBSNewYork) – Opening inventories started Wednesday in the murder trial of a New Jersey man accused of killing his childhood friend and dumping his body in the sea in December 2016.
Prosecutors say it was a scheme to steal money that the victim's late mother left.
Liam McAtasney, 21, allegedly claims Sarah Stern, 19, during a robbery at her home in Neptune City and then, with the help of her roommate, threw her body out of the Belmar Bridge on the Jersey Shore.
Her body was never found, reports CBS2's Meg Baker.
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McAtasney's roommate, Preston Taylor, who attended junior prom with Stern, confessed to helping to cover the crime. He made a complaint and went to McAtasney.
"That's the kind of money someone would kill for," Taylor said, describing how McAtasney thought of the money the accused believed Stern had just entered.
Taylor said the plan was for friends to split the $ 1
"It started as plans to either clamp her house or to steal her personally," Taylor said. "Over time, conversations developed to kill her."
McAtasney's twin brother was in court when the prosecutors described the night they say Stern was murdered in 2016.
"He said he had beaten Sara and ultimately he needed me to go to Sarah's house and look for his phone and move Sarah's body, "Taylor said.
Taylor said the couple also did a "dry run" of the crime on time, how long it would take to dump Stern's body in the Shark River and make it look like a suicide. The men used walkie-talkies and the SnapChat app to make sure their conversations were not recorded.
McAtasney and his defense lawyers argued that Stern had an argument with his father and wanted to get away, possibly to California or Canada – "anywhere but here."
Web Extra: Earlier prosecutor discusses the trial
Cheryl Bader, a former assistant US lawyer in New Jersey and current lawyer professor at Fordham University, says missing body typically creates a "real upward battle" for prosecutors, but that's not the case here.
"I actually think in this case that the prosecutor has a lot of important important evidence. And I actually think it is the defense lawyer who is going to go uphill here," said Bader. "It is one of the most important evidence that they have a testimony of a cooperating witness who was the host of the defendant and he took a plea and said," I helped dispose of this body and threw this body into the river. "The defense lawyer must face why would anyone come forward and actually say they dispose of a body and guilty if they lie."
"There is also a decree. So another friend lost a confession as defendant gave out describing how he actually sat there and watched her out, "said Bader. "It will be pretty convincing testimony when they hear the order's defendant."