The Case of Sarah Stern | True Life Crime


(spooky music) – I’m Nev from
Catfish, the series that investigates
social media mysteries. Tonight the new series
“True Life Crime” investigates the most
harrowing true crime mysteries rocking headlines
and social feeds. These victims were young. The crimes against
them were shocking, (dragging) and haunting questions remain. “True Life Crime” is
here to expose the truth. In tonight’s case,
19-year-old Sarah Stern’s car was found abandoned on
a Jersey Shore bridge with the keys still inside. Police suspected
suicide but if Sarah had planned to kill
herself why would she withdraw thousands of
dollars before she died? Sarah’s ex-classmate goes
undercover to reveal the truth and discovers a twist no
one could have expected. MTV news reporter
Dometi Pongo takes us inside this bone chilling case. (hiphop music) (tense music) – [Operator] 911,
where is the emergency? – [Caller] There’s a
car that’s abandoned – You would not believe
what just happened. – [Dometi] When a teenage
girl seemingly vanishes without a trace. – In the pit of your
stomach, it’s panic. – [Dometi] It would
completely blindside a sleepy Jersey Shore town. – I was like, “This
can’t be real”. I didn’t wanna believe it. – [Dometi] Was it
a tragic suicide? – [Man] She’s not suicidal
in any way, do you think? – [Woman] I don’t know. – [Dometi] Or, was it
something more sinister? (police sirens) – [Police Officer] Police
department, hello, anybody home? – I knew she wasn’t somewhere
that she wanted to be. – [Dometi] What really
happened to Sarah Stern? – A lot of evil out there. – Just when you thought it
couldn’t get any worse, it did. (tense music) (police sirens) – [Operator] 911,
where is the emergency? – [Caller] Actually
on the Belmar Bridge, there’s a car that’s abandoned. – [Dometi] In the early
morning of December 3rd, 2016, an abandoned car is
found on a bridge near Neptune City, New Jersey. After running the
plates police determine the vehicle belongs to a local
woman, but is normally driven by her 19-year-old
granddaughter, Sarah Stern. The keys were in the car and
nothing seems to be wrong with the vehicle, however
Sarah is no where to be seen. – Someone’s watching
me at the store, so. (knocking) – [Dometi] Police check her
house to see if she’s there. – [Police Officer] Police
department, hello, anybody home? – [Dometi] It’s empty,
and nothing appears to be out of place. – [Police Officer]
Announce yourself please. – [Dometi] Police next
contact Sarah’s father, Michael Stern, who was
on vacation in Florida. – It was three o’clock
in the morning. I tried calling her, and
then I tried texting, and didn’t hear from her. (tense music) – [Dometi] Michael had a
stress filled 16 hour drive from Florida to Neptune City. Kept trying to contact Sarah,
but never got a response. – In the pit of your stomach,
it’s panic, it’s fear. Just a lot of
unanswered questions. (hiphop music) – [Dometi] Neptune
city is a place where people don’t just up
and vanish without a trace. The tiny beach town
of 4700 knew Sarah from her days working at
a local ice-cream shop. But, how well did
they really know her? (hiphop music) When Sarah’s car was
found on the bridge the assumption was she’d
taken her own life, which is initially what
grabbed my attention about this story. Suicide rates have skyrocketed,
especially among girls, and is the second
leading cause of death for young Americans between
the ages of 10 and 19. As a journalist, I
set out to find out if this was the case
and if so, why? I’ve worked with
troubled teens before, but nothing could prepare
me for Sarah’s tragic story. (hiphop music) My first step to really dive
into this is to learn more about Sarah and find
out who she really was. So, I’m gonna visit
her dad, Michael and learn everything I
can about his daughter. Sarah had been living
at home at the time of her disappearance,
and was the only child of Michael and his
late wife, Carla. From what I read online,
the fact that they were able to conceive Sarah at all, was
nothing short of miraculous. You guys called her
your miracle baby. – Yeah. – [Dometi] Tell me more. – Well, you see my
wife had uterine tumors and couldn’t get pregnant and
then Sarah came along and– – What was going
through your mind when you finally
had your baby girl? – I was just, it was kind
of like “The Lion King”. You know, I had
Simba right here. – [Dometi] Sarah
became the center of Michael and Carla’s world. – Our Uncle Mike is probably
the clown of the family and our Aunt Carla, Sarah’s
mom was very gentle and caring. And, I think Sarah was the
combination of the two. – But the perfect
family would fall apart during Sarah’s high
school freshman year, when her mom passed away after
a long battle with cancer. Can you talk a bit about
when Sarah lost her mom? – You know, we tried
to keep going on, but you know, there
was a lot of sadness. – [Dometi] As an outlet
Sarah threw herself into art. (hiphop music) – She just kind of,
went into it full force, I guess something
to take her mind off you know, losing her mom. And, this is one of the
last things that she did. Obviously this was from a movie. – [Dometi] Wow. – [Michael Stern] She just
got an idea to do something and she just loved to
you know, create things. – She painted, she
drew, oh my gosh, the life drawing
and the portraits. I think she drew to
make other people happy. And, then once in a
while she’d feel sad. Sometimes her emotions would
really kind of take over. A lot of it had to do
with missing her mom. (hiphop music) – [Dometi] Sarah wasn’t just
an introspective artist. She spent hours
online connecting with people from
around the world, who shared her passion
for something else. – Yeah, (laughs) it was great. – She was infatuated with
a lot of the YouTubers, Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart. – Guys, I need you to
write like a sentence about Hannah Hart so I
can put it in my letter. (hiphop music) – [Dometi] It seemed like
Sarah had found a community outside Neptune City
where she felt at home, and could deal with the
pain of losing her mom. (whoosh) Or, did she? – Toby, we’re live. – To find out, I’m meeting Lexi, who was flown in from
Sacramento, California. The two of them met online, they talked almost
every single day, and they maintained
this relationship even though they
were halfway across the country from one another. How did you and Sarah
end up being so close? – Me and my freshman
year roommate would play around
this website “Omegle”. That’s a place that
you can just go, type in some sort of interest. I typed in “The Holy Trinity”
which is the name that these three YouTubers
had dubbed themselves. (fart noise) (laughing) And, Sarah was on
this online video chat of people who love them. And, it stopped becoming
about the YouTube and started becoming about
just our friendship together. (hiphop music) – [Dometi] How long had you
guys been chatting online before you met in person? – [Lexi] Two years I think. We drove up from
Jersey to Toronto. – [Dometi] What was
happening there? – We went to Canada
for her birthday. Some members of our
group lived there, and also she just always
wanted to go to Canada. So she was like, “Let’s
just go, let’s just do it.” – Y’all are wild, man! (laughing) Y’all a wild crew. – Sarah lived by this motto
that she got from the YouTuber, Hannah Hart, and it was
“Practice reckless optimism”. – [Dometi] That’s beautiful. (sad music) – [Lexi] That community,
when the news came out about Sarah really rallied
around trying to find her. – Wow. Sarah’s family also launched
an online campaign to find her. – I had posted a missing
flyer on my Facebook, that ended up getting
millions of shares. (tense music) – [Dometi] In spite
of their efforts, no one came forward with
any viable information. And, when hundreds of volunteers
gathered to look for her, their search came up empty. So, where was Sarah? To begin unraveling the
mystery, I need to investigate where Sarah’s abandoned
car was discovered, Belmar Bridge on Route 35. Sarah was starting
to see her art grow. She was making connections
around the world and all of that promise,
all of that talent, all of that came to an
end on the early morning of December 3rd, right
here on this bridge. Did Sarah take her own life? If so, why? (dramatic music)

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