FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) — A judge has decided that a jury will be allowed to hear the videotaped statement of a man accused of strangling a friend during a robbery and throwing her body off a New Jersey bridge.
Superior Court Judge Richard English said in Friday’s ruling that Liam McAtasney “voluntarily and, seemingly, boastfully” told him the entire story of what happened to the victim, and there was no evidence that the statements were the product of police coercion, The Asbury Park Press reported.
“Defendant spoke … about planning Sarah Stern’s murder for the past six months, ‘choking her out’ for half an hour, stealing her safe, and then disposing of her body by throwing it over the Belmar Bridge” with a co-defendant’s help, English wrote in the decision.
Defense attorneys sought to have the evidence kept from the jury, arguing that the acquaintance who recorded it was acting as an agent of police, but the judge said McAtasney insisted on communicating with the acquaintance. He also said the defendant hadn’t yet been arrested, charged or indicted, and therefore had no right to an attorney.
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New defense attorney Carlos Diaz-Cobo declined comment, saying he hadn’t yet seen the ruling. A previous attorney had argued that the defendant made up stories about planning to rob and kill the victim as part of a horror film the acquaintance was making. A trial date has not been set.
Prosecutors allege that McAtasney, 20, killed Stern, 19, a former high school classmate, in December 2016. Another former classmate who is slated to testify against him said they threw her body off the bridge, leaving her car there to make it look like she killed herself. Stern’s disappearance and the discovery of her car sparked a massive search. Her body was never found.
Information from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, http://www.app.com