Sarah Stern murder: Accomplice Preston Taylor loses appeal to reduce 18-year sentence

Preston Taylor looks back to his parents before he is taken back to state prison Friday, August 30, 2019, State Superior Judge Richard English ruled that his 18 year prison term will stand for his role in the murder of Sarah Stern.

A three-judge panel has rejected an appeal from Preston Taylor to reduce his prison sentence for his role in the robbery and murder of Sarah Stern.

In the 26-page ruling, the state Superior Court’s appellate division did set aside — on a procedural quibble — a $10,000 fine imposed on Taylor by the trial court on the robbery count of his conviction.

“Taylor argues the trial court erred by not conducting an ability to pay hearing before imposing the $10,000 discretionary fine on the robbery count. We agree,” the appellate court wrote in its decision.

Taylor, of Neptune, who is now 24 and won’t be eligible for parole until May 20, 2032, is entitled to a court hearing in regard to his ability to pay the fine imposed, as well as to the manner or method of payment, the appellate court ruled — citing previous case law on the subject. The judges remanded the matter back to the trial court in Freehold to conduct such a hearing but stated, “we have no opinion on the amount of the fine that is appropriate.”

The appeal was the result of a decision made by Superior Court Judge Richard W. English in Freehold — who handed down Taylor’s sentence in June 2019 — to impose a longer sentence than the 15 years prosecutors recommended. That recommendation was based in part on Taylor's “substantial” cooperation with authorities.

However, the appellate court found no issues with the judge’s discretion to impose the longer sentence. Under the sentencing guidelines, Taylor is required to serve at least 15 of the 18 years of his term.

Taylor admitted to conspiring with his friend and roommate Liam McAtasney to rob Stern, of Neptune City, an aspiring artist who was Taylor’s junior prom date, of money passed onto her by her deceased mother. He also confessed to helping McAtasney throw the 19-year-old’s body off the Route 35 bridge between Neptune and Belmar after McAtasney strangled her to death in December 2016.

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Taylor agreed to cooperate with authorities following his arrest in February 2017 and ultimately pleaded guilty to robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, desecrating human remains, conspiracy to desecrate human remains and hindering apprehension. He took officers to Stern's house to recount details of the crime and revealed the locations of two safes connected to the case.

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He also testified against McAtasney at his former roommate’s murder trial three years ago. A Monmouth County jury ultimately found McAtasney guilty of murder and a slew of other crimes, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Erik Larsen: 732-682-9359 or

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Sarah Stern murder: Preston Taylor loses appeal for reduced sentence