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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    Who's the new team?


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    See what happened this week in ice hockey across New Jersey.


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    Who shined in the past week on the basketball court?


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    Which players stole the show this week?


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    Liam McAtasney, 20, is accused of strangling his childhood friend, Sarah Stern, during a robbery at her Neptune City home in December 2016.

    The man accused of strangling his childhood friend, Sarah Stern, and dumping her body off a Jersey Shore bridge in December 2016 used Snapchat to discuss the ongoing investigation with a friend who later went to authorities, prosecutors revealed in court Tuesday. 

    Liam McAtasney sent a Snapchat message to the unnamed friend, who helped authorities record conversations with McAtasney, alerting him about the mounting investigation into Stern's disappearance.

    "They talked to almost everybody I know," the message read. "If they haven't already, they will."

    McAtasney, who is charged with murder in the death of 19-year-old Stern, during a robbery at her Neptune City home, continued to have a conversation with the witness through Snapchat, which allows users to send messages and photos to each other that disappear in seconds, authorities said. The witness used a digital camera to record the Snapchat messages, authorities said.

    But the contents of the additional messages were not revealed during a court hearing Tuesday. They were instead read privately in Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Richard English's chambers.

    Also played behind closed doors was a video the witness, identified in court papers and testimony only by the initials A.C., recorded of McAtasney, 20, allegedly describing how he killed Stern on Dec. 2, 2016.

    McAtasney's attorney, Charles Moriarty, is seeking to have the video and other taped interviews with investigators barred from his trial. A trial date has not been set.

    Moriarty filed a motion to have the recording played in judge's chambers, rather than in open court. Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Decker told the judge he did not object, citing the potential of future change-in-venue motions if the video was shown to the public.

    Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Detective Brian Weisbrot testified Tuesday that investigators learned of A.C. after a Belmar police detective contacted the prosecutor's office. The detective said a retired Bradley Beach police officer had a friend whose son had information pertaining to the disappearance of Stern, whose abandoned vehicle was found early Dec. 3, 2016, parked on the side of the Route 35 Bridge in Belmar.

    Detectives contacted the man and spoke with A.C., on Jan. 24, 2016, at police headquarters in Belmar, authorities said.

    A.C. would go on to secretly record a discussion with McAtasney in which he allegedly provided details of the strangulation, authorities have said.

    Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Meghan Doyle said in previous court hearings that McAtasney told the friend that while strangling Stern with his hands, he lifted her off the ground and then left her body on the floor while he watched her die. He then watched her die for 30 minutes, McAtasney told the friend, according to Doyle.

    "He knew exactly how long it was because he chose to time it," Doyle said.

    Moriarty argued in court last week that "it was just like McAtasney to make up stories," adding that he enjoyed acting and always came up with movie ideas. His friend, A.C., was known to produce films.

    Weisbrot also said during testimony Tuesday that investigators obtained a copy of a sign-in sheet from a community search effort to locate Stern on Dec. 10, 2016, when she was still believed missing. The paper had the names and phone numbers of McAtasney and Preston Taylor.

    Taylor, 20, is charged with helping to discard of Stern's body. Taylor, who took Stern to junior prom, has admitted his role in the coverup and agreed to testify against McAtasney. Stern's body was never recovered.

    Detectives also subpoenaed a copy of a taped interview McAtasney gave with FiOS1 News.

    Authorities have said McAtasney and Taylor participated in the search to deflect suspicion.

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at anapoliello@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Authorities says Timothy Harden had alcohol, marijuana and cocaine in his system when he punched a security guard at a music festival

    The family of a 38-year-old New Jersey man who died after allegedly being beaten and choked by coops at a music festival more than two years ago settled their excessive force lawsuit with Howell police for $350,000.

    The news was first reported by NJ Civil Settlements, a blog that provides a partial list of settlements paid by New Jersey government agencies and their insurers to those who have sued them.

    Timothy J. Harden, of Belmar, was volunteering at the Souper Groove music festival on Sept. 5, 2015 when he began having a "medical or psychiatric episode" that caused him to become agitated, according to court papers.

    $3M settlement in police excessive-force suit, report says

    Private security then used excessive and unreasonable force to restrain Harden until police arrived at the Priedaine New Jersey Latvian Society on Route 33, the suit says. When Howell police arrived, the suit alleged they beat and choked Harden, causing his thyroid cartilage to fracture and leaving him with bruises and contusions.

    Harden died that day at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.

    Police told a different story of what took place that afternoon. Harden punched a private security guard in the face after drinking alcohol and using cocaine and marijuana, authorities said. 

    The security guard responded by punching Harden before other guards intervened and brought Harden to the ground, authorities said. When Howell police officers arrived, they tried to talk to Harden in an attempt to calm him down and get him medical help, authorities said. 

    Harden became combative with police and suddenly stopped breathing as police waited for paramedics to administer a sedative, officials said. Harden died at the hospital minutes later. 

    The officers who allegedly beat Harden are not named in the suit, which was filed in November 2015. 

    Months later, the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office announced the officers involved had been cleared of wrongdoing, saying Harden's death came as a result of "drug-induced excited delirium."

    The suit, which was settled Nov. 6, was filed by Harden's sisters, Theresa Taylor, of Brick, and Melissa Barna, of Lakehurst. The lawsuit also named the Priedaine New Jersey Latvian Society and the organizers of Souper Groove. The suit against the two groups is still active.

    Harden was a 1996 graduate of Neptune High School who later attended Monmouth University, according to an online obituary. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     


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    There is a new No. 1 at 152 pounds plus other changes in the second NJ.com weight class rankings of 2018.


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    Niche.com released its latest best school rankings; click here to see where your school checks in.


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    Updated ranking based on the past week's results


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    NJ.com releases the first 10 wrestlers in its 2018 pound-for-Pound wrestler rankings on its way to a statewide Top 50.


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    See which players are at the top of each statistical list early in the season.


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    Former Barnegat High School star Jason Groome is ranked as the top prospect in the minor league system of the Boston Red Sox

    Jason Groome, a Barnegat High School grad, is the No. 1-ranked prospect in the Boston Red Sox minor league system according to Baseball Prospectus.

    Groome, a 6-foot-6. 220-pound, left-hander, was the 12th overall selection and No. 1 pick of the Red Sox in the 2016 MLB Draft.

    Groome is the No. 29 prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball Prospectus, the No. 43 prospect according to MLB.com and the No. 43 overall prospect according to Baseball America.

    Last season, his first full season as a profession, Groome’s progress was slowed by injury. He saw time at both Greeville, S.C. of the South Atlantic League and Lowell, Mass. of the New York-Penn League.

    He was 3-9 with combined 5.69 ERA. In 14 starts, he allowed 49 hits and 38 runs in 55.1 innings. He struck out 72 and walked 30.

    Groome has spent the off-season working with Boston’s big-league ace Chris Sale on conditioning.

    Joe Zedalis may be reached at jzedalis@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @josephzedalis. Like NJ.com HS sports on Facebook.

     

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    A look at the top statistical leaders from across the state.


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    See what the junior-dominated Panthers are all about


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    The ice-encased vessel is sitting in Sandy Hook Bay, about a mile from the tip of Naval Weapons Station Earle

    With some luck, lifelong Monmouth County resident Danny Davis and his three dogs could get his home back soon. Right now, however, his houseboat remains stuck far from shore surrounded by the ice in in Sandy Hook Bay.

    Davis, 53, and his pooches were forced to leave the 33-foot houseboat moored in a cove off Middletown's Hartshorne Woods Park to escape last week's blizzard.

    Unfortunately, the churning waters of the bay, strong winds and chunks of ice pushed the boat about mile from the edge of Naval Weapons Station Earle in the Sandy Hook Bay.

    "It's still in the same spot, thankfully," Davis' wife Joan Davis said by phone Wednesday. "Our biggest fear is that the ice will rip a hole in it, but it hasn't moved at all in about three days."

    With temperatures back above freezing and a further warmup coming Thursday and Friday, the ice encasing the boat should begin to subside.

    The other good news is that the Davises have found someone with an icebreaker who can free the vessel to prevent it from sustaining damage. 

    The bad news is that since Davis has no insurance on the boat so even if he can arrange for it to be towed, no one will allow the boat to dock, according to Joan Davis.

    While the Davises are separated, Joan let Danny and the dogs temporarily stay in her Keansburg apartment. The problem is that the landlord won't allow the dogs to remain there. 

    In the meantime, Davis and the dogs have been sleeping in his van, which needs a new transmission.

    Davis told APP.com he is a retired fisherman who has had 13 heart attacks. His only income is $741 in disability he receives each month. He didn't immediately return messages from NJ Advance Media. 

    A GoFundMe.com page set up by Joan Davis to cover basic expenses for Danny such as food, clothing and shelter has raised nearly $400. It aims to raise $5,000.

    "Danny's dogs are his children and he would live in a tent or his van before being separated from his dogs," Joan Davis wrote. "Danny is the best man I know."

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The witness worked with police to tape an alleged confession from Liam McAtasney, who is charged with killing Sarah Stern

    The friend of Sarah Stern's accused killer willingly worked with investigators to record an alleged confession because he feared for his life, the lead detective in the case testified in court Wednesday.

    Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Detective Brian Weisbrot made that assertion during testimony in a hearing Wednesday to determine if the videotaped recording can be played at the trial for Liam McAtasney, 20. 

    "A.C. wanted to participate in the consensual recording," Weisbrot said, referring to the witness by his initials to protect his identity.

    "Is there a reason he gave for that?" Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Decker asked Weisbrot.

    "A.C. was terrified of Liam McAtasney," Weisbrot responded. "He felt that if he didn't participate in this that Liam McAtasney would kill him and/or hurt his family."

    The conversation between A.C. and McAtasney took place near the end of January 2017.

    McAtasney, now charged with murdering Stern, 19, and dumping her body off the Route 35 bridge in Belmar, was arrested on Feb. 2 along with his roommate Preston Taylor, 20.

    Taylor, who took Stern to junior prom, has admitted his role in the coverup and agreed to testify against McAtasney.

    The contents of the taped video recording are at the center of a motion to dismiss evidence by McAtasney's attorney, Charles Moriarty. The tape was played privately in Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Richard English's chambers Tuesday.

    Meghan Doyle, an assistant Monmouth County prosecutor, has said that McAtasney explains in detail the strangulation of Stern. Authorities allege McAtasney killed Stern in order to steal $10,000 that she had received from her grandmother.

    Weisbrot previously testified that detectives were speaking with McAtasney about the disappearance of Stern, whose car was found abandoned on the Route 35 bridge in Belmar early Dec. 3, 2016, because he was the last person to be with her.

    Police, who had spoken to McAtasney in the days after Stern's car was found, ceased communications with McAtasney after he sat down for an interview with Belmar police Detective John Mahoney and Weisbrot on Dec. 6, 2016. 

    The two-hour interview, played in court Tuesday, ends with Weisbrot advising McAtasney that his parents contacted two attorneys. Weisbrot testified that the interview ended because they had received all the information they needed from McAtasney. 

    Detectives learned about A.C. after his father contacted a retired Bradley Beach police officer to tell him that his son had information about the disappearance of Stern.

    When detectives met with A.C. at police headquarters in Belmar on Jan. 24, he provided them with social media messages and other correspondence with McAtasney, Weisbrot said.

    He acknowledged that after the meeting with A.C., McAtasney went from possibly having information on a missing-persons case to a suspect in the disappearance of Stern. A judge then signed off on a warrant for the consensual recording, Weisbrot said.

    Weisbrot said McAtasney was "very persistent" in trying to meet up with A.C. He said the two would communicate often through text messages, but after Stern went missing, those communications took place exclusively through Snapchat, a social media application that allows people to send each other photos that disappear.

    A.C. used a digital camera to record the correspondence on Snapchat, Weisbrot said. The content of those messages was also reviewed in Judge English's chambers Tuesday.

    One message from McAtasney, read during testimony Tuesday, said: "They talked to almost everybody I know. If they haven't already, they will."

    Moriarty accused Weisbrot of using A.C. to get around client-attorney privilege.

    "That was a convenient way," he said, arguing that at that point Weisbrot was aware two attorneys had been contacted by McAtasney's parents but did not actively reach out to those attorneys to speak with him. 

    Moriarty, in previous hearings, has chalked up what his client has said to A.C., who was known to produce films, as ideas for movies.

    "It was just like McAtasney to make up stories," he said.

    Judge English will decide on Jan. 25 if the recording, and other taped interviews McAtasney had with police, can be played during McAtasney's trial. A trial date has not been set. 

    Alex Napoliello may be reached at anapoliello@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The highways and bi-ways and everything in-between in the Garden State.

    When I first got my driver's license -- back in 19 mumble, mumble -- there was no Global Positioning System. There also weren't smart phones, let alone apps that told you how to get somewhere or how to avoid traffic jams.

    We relied solely on our memories and, of course, maps. Not all that long ago, I pulled out a map when one of my children asked how to get somewhere. As I unfolded it, I was met with a blank stare; it was a foreign sight to my millennial. I imagine I'd get the same reaction if I leafed through a TV guide while sitting in front of our flat screen.

    I like maps. And, as someone who has charted many trips with the help of Rand McNally, I've wondered about the labeling of roadways.

    Matt Soniak offered some explanation on mentalfloss.com.

    Soniak writes about science, history, etymology and Bruce Springsteen for both the website and the print magazine. His work has appeared in print and online for Men's Health, Scientific American, The Atlantic, and Philly.com.

    According to Soniak, "roads" run between two distant points -- two towns, for example. In those towns, you'll find "streets," lined with houses and other buildings.

    An "avenue" is traditionally a straight road with a line of trees or shrubs running along each side; a "boulevard" is usually a widened, multi-lane street with a median and landscaping between the curbs and sidewalks on either side.

    A "court?" A short street that ends as a cul de sac. "Drive" can be short for "driveway," a private road for local access to one, or a small group of structures. Other times it refers to meandering, rather than straight, roads and highways.

    A "lane" is a narrow road or street usually lacking a shoulder or a median, while a "way" is a minor street off a road in a town.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    For larger thoroughfares, an "expressway" is a divided highway meant for high-speed traffic. A "freeway" is a road designed for safe high-speed traffic by the elimination of intersections at the same grade or level. A "highway" is a main road intended for travel between destinations like cities and towns.

    "Routes" can be interstate highways, designated by "U.S." as in U.S. Route 1 or county routes, also referred to as "state secondary routes."

    I grew up on Chimes Terrace; I have no idea what that means.

    Here's a gallery of New Jersey streets and roads. And here are links to similar galleries from the past.

    Vintage photos of streets and roads in N.J.

    Vintage photos of street scenes in N.J.

    Vintage photos of New Jersey street scenes

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    According to its Trulia listing, the taxes on the property this year were $48,346.

    In this week's "Sold!" property, we feature a home in Holmdel with more than 6,600 square feet of living space.

    The house sold for $2,110,000 in November. According to its Trulia listing, the taxes on the property this year were $48,346.

    The home features five bedrooms, six full bathrooms and two partial baths. The house was assessed this year at $2,339,000.

    The median sale price for homes in the area is $615,000.

    Spencer Kent may be reached at skent@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerMKent. Find the Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    Two new teams enter this week's girls basketball Top 20.


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    Shore Conference rivals set to battle it out.

    The Shore Conference's top two teams will go head-to-head on Thursday night when Ranney, No. 6 in the NJ.com Top 20, faces off against No. 10 Mater Dei at 5:30 p.m.

    This rivalry may be not be the longest in the Garden State, but over the last three years has become as fierce as any.

    ROAD TO THE TOP

    Three years ago, Ranney received a very talented group of freshmen that played together for the Team Rio AAU squad. That group featured five-star recruit Bryan Antoine, five-star recruit Scottie Lewis, guard Alex Klatsky and forward Chris AutinoIt also hired Tahj Holden, a former assistan at CBA and starting forward on the University of Maryland 2002 NCAA National Championship team, to be its new head coach. It went 22-4, advanced to the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals and South Jersey, Non-Public B quarterfinals during the 2015-16 season. 

    Last year, another Team Rio member joined the team in point guard Ahmadu Sarnor. He helped round out Ranney's starting five and the Panthers went 22-5. It advanced to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and the South Jersey, Non-Public B semifinals. 

    This season, Ranney received another key player in 6-9 senior center Savior Akuwovo, who transferred from St. Anthony. Ranney scheduled a loaded national schedule featuring the City of Palms Classic in Florida as well as showdowns against No. 13 Montclair Immaculate and No. 7 Patrick School. Despite the difficult schedule, Ranney enters Thursday's showdown with a 8-1 record having won three straight, including a statement win over Patrick School.


    MORE: Meet the Ranney boys basketball team


    Much like Ranney, Mater Dei's boys basketball program headed in a new direction three years ago when it hired Ben Gamble, who previously coached at Cardinal McCarrick before it closed. Mater Dei also had Cardinal McCarrick. Players from Cardinal McCarrick, Marist, Central Regional and Rahway as well as players for Mater Dei made up the 2015-16 Seraphs. They went 26-2, claimed the Shore Conference Tournament title and advanced to the South Jersey, Non-Public B quarterfinals. While the team was led by Elijah Barnes, Kyle Elliot, NyQuan McCombs and Elijah Mitchel, then-sophomore Kenneth Jones emerged as an impressive ball facilitator. 

    In 2016-17, Mater Dei picked up some more key transfers in point guard Yasin Pretlow (Roselle Catholic), center Adam Afifi (Egypt) and shooting guard Kyle Cardaci (Holmdel). Despite some key graduations, the transfers and Mater Dei's returners didn't miss a beat and repeated as Shore Conference Tournament champions. In states, it fell to eventual Tournament of Champions winner Patrick School, in the South Jersey, Non-Public B quarterfinals.

    This season, Mater Dei is one of the deepest teams around at the guard position with Jones, Pretlow, Cardaci and St. Anthony transfer Alexander Rice leading the group. In the paint, the Seraphs have looked to Afifi to step up with Elijah Barnes graduated and playing at Princeton. 

    Mater Dei is 8-1 with its only loss coming to Roman Catholic (Penn.) on Saturday. Since that game it has defeated Henry Hudson and St. Rose.


    READ: Meet the Mater Dei boys basketball team


    HISTORY

    Through the last three seasons, Mater Dei has a 4-1 record against Ranney. 

    Last season, Mater Dei lost to Ranney, 58-56, before avenging that loss on the road, 76-72. Mater Dei defeated Ranney three times in the 2015-16 season, including in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

    Richard Greco may be reached at rgreco@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Richard_V_GrecoLike NJ.com HS sports on Facebook.


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