FREEHOLD — A judge has denied a request to move the trial for the man accused of killing Sarah Stern out of Monmouth County.

Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Lisa Thornton rejected the argument by Liam McAtasney's lawyer that comments in online news stories about the case have been the "most outrageous things" has seen in his 40 years as an attorney, according to NJ.com.

Sarah Stern Memorial and Celebration of Life (Adam Hochron, Townsquare Media NJ)

Charles Moriarty said it will be very difficult to select an impartial jury from Monmouth County because nearly every comment assumes McAtasney's is guilty.

Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni has said McAtasney killed Stern on Dec. 2, stole $10,000 cash from a safe in her home and then drove the Oldsmobile she drove to the Route 35 bridge connecting Neptune and Belmar. Authorities say friend Preston Taylor followed in another vehicle and helped dispose of the body.

The Oldsmobile was found abandoned on the on the shoulder of the road. Numerous searches of the water between Asbury Park and Manasquan Inlet have not turned up Stern’s body.

McAtasney pleaded not guilty in May to first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder, first-degree robbery, second-degree conspiracy, second-degree disturbing or desecrating human remains, third-degree hindering apprehension and fourth-degree tampering with physical evidence. The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office has said it will seek a sentence of life without parole.

As part of a plea deal, Taylor admitted helping McAtasney throw Stern’s body off the bridge when McAtasney was unable to lift it. Taylor said that McAtasney told him if that if he was ever questioned about Stern’s disappearance, he should say she’d had a falling out with her father, and had attempted suicide.

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

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