FREEHOLD BOROUGH — The case against the suspects in the death of Sarah Stern will be heard by a Monmouth County grand jury in April.

Sarah Stern (Courtesy of Lauren Bahr)

At a pre-indictment conference on Thursday, Liam McAtasney and Preston Taylor, both from Neptune City, made their first joint appearance before Superior Court Judge David Bauman. According to Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Charles Webster, there will not be a plea deal offered to the 19-year-olds before the grand jury gets a chance to hand up indictments.

Prosecutors will provide an opportunity for the defendants to cop a plea if the grand jury indicts them.

Stern, 19, was reported missing on Dec. 3, 2016, when her car was found on the Route 35 bridge between Belmar and Neptune. Prosecutors say the pair threw her dead body over the bridge.

Stern's body has not been found after an extensive search by State Police up and down the shoreline between Asbury Park and the Manasquan Inlet.

In court documents posted online by the Asbury Park Press authorities say McAtasney admitted to a friend — identified in court documents only as “A.C.” — in a secretly recorded conversation that he strangled Stern on Dec. 2 at her home after going with her to the bank, where she accessed her safety deposit box.

After strangling Stern, McAtasney left her body behind and took a safe with $7,000, according to the alleged recording.

Preston, who took Stern to the prom, helped McAtasney throw her body over the bridge.

McAtasney is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder, first-degree robbery, second-degree desecration of human remains, second-degree conspiracy to desecrate human remains and second-degree hindering apprehension in the case.

Taylor is charged with second-degree desecration of human remains, second-degree conspiracy to desecrate human remains and second-degree hindering apprehension.

Bauman. order both held in the Monmouth County Jail until trial.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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