this is "nightline." tonight, murdered for money. ? s >> she was a great kid. never should have ended like this. >> a teen strangled by a childhood friend for her inheritance. >> the worse thing is, i thought i was walking out, $50,000, $100,000 in my pocket, and she only had $10,000. >> the disturbing video, the prom date brings police to the scene of the crime. >> i grabbed her legs and got her over to the fence. plus, the "american idol" judges sound off. >> you call yourself simon cowell with makeup on? >> i'm firm but fair. >> the famous faces becoming family. >> this one has the most candid
bond of all of them. >> and their ruling on marriage. the advice for the newly-engaged pop princess >> especially when you propose with a ring like this! >> but first the "nightline" five. >> but first the "nightline" five. that leave therea lasting impression. like the feeling of movement as a new journey begins, or the sight of soft fur, warmed by the morning sun. you might remember new flavours,
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thank you for joining us. he was her childhood friend, and he killed her. enlisting the help of her junior prom date to get rid of her body, and it was all motivated by money. here's abc's amy robach. >> reporter: this week, justice in a new jersey courtroom. >> guilty. guilty. guilty. >> reporter: leah, a former friend of sarah stern, found guilty on all counts of murdering the 19-year-old who went missing from her home in december 2016. a jury determining that he strangled her and enlisted her junior prom date, preston, to help throw her body off a nearby bridge. >> to think that somebody who pretended to be her friend actually did that to her and without any remorse. it's just, it's painful, it's sad, and it's just, it's beyond anything that i've ever experienced before in my life. >> reporter: prosecutors say the
motive, getting their hands on sarah's lock box, which he believed was stuffed with up to $100,000 in cash. >> i picked her up under the shoulders and hoisted her up. >> reporter: and now newly-released video shows that accomplice, preston taylor, walking investigators through exactly what happened after the murder. >> i carried her over here. dragged her over here and kind of sat her under the bushes right here. >> 911, where's the emergency? >> reporter: it was a 911 call on a december night that first indicated something had gone terribly wrong. >> i'm actually on the belmar bridge, there's a car abandoned. >> is there anyone in the vehicle? >> no. >> the phone rang in early in the morning, do you know anything about a car, a gray oldsmobile? yeah, my daughter drives that car. a million things go through your
mind. >> reporter: you were in florida. >> yeah. >> reporter: you drove from florida back to new jersey. >> at 3:30, 4:00 in the morning, there's no traffic. you can drive pretty quick. >> reporter: less than two hours after that 911 call, police bang on the door of his home. >> there's a unique reality and a great one, where the police when they go and interview people they have body cameras on. >> liam, do you have a second? can i come in and talk to you real quick? >> no problem, officer. >> is sarah here by chance? >> no. >> when's the last time you talked to her? >> it was earlier today. >> what was her mind-set when you were talking to her? >> i just know she was trying to get ay.he investigation, they both suggested that sarah may have left town or taken her own life. >> had she been different than normal lately? and for how long? >> in the past, she has had a
tendency to have self-destructive, suicidal behavior. >> what do you think happened? >> i think she jumped. >> reporter: the investigation stalls. >> it's horrible. it's a sense of hopelessness. you don't, you have no idea. sarah's my only child. and it's a hard feeling that we couldn't find her. >> reporter: she had just disappeared. >> just vanished. >> reporter: but then the police receive a tip that leads them to a sting operation, using another friend. this video secretly recorded by police. >> she goes to walk out the front door. i choke her out. drag her. my biggest problem was the dog. and her dog laid there and watched as i killed her. didn't do anything. her [ bleep ] dog. and it took me a half hour to kill her.
i thought i was going to be able to choke her out and have her out in like couple minutes. i got a shirt, and i just shoved it down her throat so she wouldn't throw up or anything and held my finger over her nose. and set a timer. >> reporter: prosecutors playing that video during the murder trial, arguing money was the motivation, intent on getting a safe inside sarah's home. >> the worse part of it is, i thought i was walking out, $50,000, $100,000 in my pocket. she had one safe, and she took money out, and she only had $10,000. >> he literally gives a blow-by-blow of how he killed her, where he killed her, how long it took him to kill her, how they moved the body, where they hid the money. i mean he really just does a who's who of this crime on camera, which i will tell you, is the perfect way to capture it, because you're not in an interrogation.
he thinks he's talking p lay privately to one guy. >> reporter: his accomplice taylor later walked investigators through the crime scene. >> the kitchen and living room lights were on. >> okay. >> and this door was closed. this one i couldn't get open, but i was able to push this one open. enter, and sarah was slumped in this corner right here. >> reporter: explaining how the two disposed of her body. >> these are the bushes that you placed sarah in? >> mm-hm. right under these bushes here. we pulled her out. and he picked her up to start dragging her. i grabbed her legs and got her over to the fence. liam dragged her over to the car and sat her in the passenger seat while i was putting the safe in my car.
>> did you see him dragging her? >> yeah. >> if somebody were driving down the road and looking into that cas car, what would they see? >> they would have seen liam driving the car and sarah, assuming she was asleep asleep in the passenger seat. >> reporter: taylor said he was driving his own vehicle. >> which bridge? >> the 35 bridge. >> reporter: the bridge is where taylor told authorities they threw stern's body into the water below. her body was never found. sentencing for both men is set for may. for sarah's family, more than two years after her murder, finally, a sense of justice. how do you want the world to remember sarah stern? >> well, i'd like to have her be remembered as an artist. a friend. that was just, you know, a good person.
and that's, that's all that was really about. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm amy robach in neptune city, new jersey. >> our thanks to amy. the 2020 special with friends like these areas tomorrow night at 9:00, 8:00 central here on abc. next, the big surprises and private pain bonding the "american idol" judges. how the unlikely family formed. in 30,000 precision parts. or it isn't. it's inspected by mercedes-benz factory-trained technicians. or it isn't. it's backed by an unlimited mileage warranty, or it isn't. for those who never settle, it's either mercedes-benz certified pre-owned, or it isn't. the mercedes-benz certified pre-owned sales event. now through february 28th. only at your authorized mercedes-benz dealer.
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heartbreaks. "american idol" has been a reality staple for 17 seasons, but it's not just the care eyei carrying the idol tune, but we have how the judges are tipping the scale. >> cousin ryan. >> uncle ryan, papa lionel, and we're the misfits. >> these are my kids. >> reporter: they've quickly become a reality show family. >> children, children. >> katie asked me, you have met this guy? do you know this guy luke bryan? you're going to love them. >> reporter: that prediction came true. they're from three very different worlds. katy perry, the pop princess who made us roar. and luke bryan who knows exact lay whexactly what makes you country. ♪ everybody sing, everybody dance ♪
>> reporter: and lionel richie, the legend who's had us dancing all night long for decades. so it was basically love at first sight. >> absolutely. >> reporter: these "american idol" judges have formed an unexpectedly tight friendship on and off the screen. >> sometimes lie nonel invites over to his very large mansion. >> very spacious. >> don't even play around. >> reporter: and i heard you have a text chain that you have a name for. >> yeah, it's called the judgmentals. >> reporter: this reality show staple has enjoyed 17 seasons and counting, launching careers of kelly clarkson, carrie underwood. and jennifer hudson. >> i've seen a lot of groups of judges together. this one definitely has the tightest, closest, most candid
bond of all of them. >> reporter: why do you think they have such chemistry? >> respect! >> i can tell you one other thing, too. we're all artists. >> what do you do for a living? >> right now i work as a janitor. >> reporter: artists reminded by all these young hopefuls of what it was like for them to be a starving artist. i wonder how your role with "american idol" changes the way if you approach your own career. >> gratitude. i've been doing this and have had a lot of, you know, wonderful opportunity for over a decade, and i know, you know, my friends have here as well, and sometimes you do get used to a nice hotel room. and then you kind of forget along the way about who that person was. >> you -- >> i got signed and dropped two times and cars repossessed and sleeping on couches. the contestants remind us of ourselves. we see other selves in them and they reinvigorate us. >> brrrr. how many cups of coffee have you
had today? don't ever drink coffee again. brrrrr. >> reporter: how do you break the news to someone if they're super quirky or they have no talent? >> well, we celebrate. quirky is great. i mean, quirky is great. >> i made a career out of it. ♪ >> reporter: the california girl, the rebellious daughter of a preacher made waves with her first hit. ♪ i kissed a girl ♪ and i liked it >> my first single was "i kissed a girl." do you think my parents were excited about that? >> reporter: how did your parents react to that? >> oh, you know, they're doing just fine now. >> reporter: i heard, katie, you see yourself as the tough judge. you call yourself simon cowell with -- >> makeup on. i'm fair but direct. >> 1,000%. >> reporter: what happen when is you disagree? >> i take my heels off.
>> it gets a little raggedy. >> it's so stressful. >> reporter: for these judges, personality counts. hitting the high notes isn't always enough. >> we will have great singers. like, they've never hit a bad note, but they're not connecting with us emotionally. >> yeah. ♪ voice of an angel ♪ pretty eyes that shine >> reporter: but when young hopefuls do connect, the moment is equally powerful, on both sides of the judges table. >> my name is shayla wynne. i just became legal lay blily b about a year ago. >> her attitude was these are the cards i was dealt, i guess i got to get on with it. just that statement alone hits you right in the gut. but she still says i don't want anything to deter me from my dreams, so i'm going to go forward. then she opened her mouth and started singing. ♪ i rise up
♪ i rise up >> of course i just lost it completely to the point of embarrassment. >> i'm so in love with you. >> oh, thank you. >> that's the show. >> mm. >> that's what it's all about. >> thank you. >> reporter: and sometimes the contestants' private pain mirrors the judges' own lives. >> in january i lost my older brother to suicide. >> oh, bud. >> and in april i lost my 17-year-old brother to suicide. ♪ so come on, let it go ♪ just let it be ♪ why don't you be you ♪ and i'll be me >> i vnhaven't brought it up on this show because i haven't had to. but as somebody who's lost both siblings, you know, man, i applaud you for keeping a positive attitude and continuing to be a light. >> it was just so powerful, so
healing, so real. and that's what, when we can clock in and sign up for that every day, it's like get us on the plane and fly us there, and let's go have some amazing moments. ♪ i see the words across her face ♪ ♪ savin' my last breath for you ♪ >> reporter: so how satisfying is it to be able to mentor these young people? >> so fun. >> so fun, that's what i was going to say. >> it's like having a literal lottery ticket that we can give these kids. >> reporter: what do you say to the criticism that oh, "american idol" doesn't make stars like they used to. >> oh, please. >> baloney. >> there are 35,000 songs that come out on spotify every day. to get any traction you have to basically light yourself on fire on instagram. we don't recommend that. they need an a little something extra, so they're coming to idol. >> there are a lot of great shows, but it's the only show that truly makes superstars.
>> and by the way, if anyone were to say "american idol" doesn't make stars, i'm sorry, watch the oscars last weekend. ♪ we will, we will rock you >> and thjennifer hudson can si her booty off. >> i call the university of "american idol." >> reporter: with idol in swing, katy's in full bloom, announcing her engagement to orlando bloom. do you have to have a sling for that ring? i mean, it's super heavy. >> you don't have to zoom in, honey. >> wide lens. >> reporter: there's no wedding planning going on? >> oh, you know, there's just being in the moment. >> she's in the moment. she's loving it. >> i'm happy. >> reporter: this idol family's so close, even offering wisdom about love. >> papa lionel. >> let's go to marriage
university now. >> you know, what you do in your 20s, you're still exploring. >> you don't even know who you are. >> the 30s, you have a better idea what you're doing, who you are, where you're going. and therefore, can you predict a little bit more success. >> 30s. >> then 40s and 50s, i can tell you those stories, too. but you're not there yet. >> reporter: papa lionel doing what papa knows best. >> our thanks to juju. "american idol" "a new journey" begins right here on abc. and next, the pediatric nurse and the patient she adopted. adopted. no matter how much you clean, does your house still smell stuffy? that's because your home is filled with soft surfaces that trap odors and release them back into the room. so, try febreze fabric refresher. febreze finds odors trapped in fabrics and cleans them away as it dries. use febreze every time you tidy up to keep your whole house smelling fresh air clean.
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they tearfully asked angela and her husband to adopt their baby boy. and the answer was yes. angela's been caring for patients for 30 years, and now she'll care for one for life. it was the english poet rudyard kipling who said god kontcouldne everywhere, so therefore he made mothers. that's "nightline," america, goodnight. goodnight. try my sourdough patty melt combo with fries and a drink for just $4.99. it's the perfect remedy for the uncomfortable things in life... like flying, the dentist ...and guys named ronald. i have my reasons. try my $4.99 sourdough patty melt combo today.