Residents and neighbors of several area beach communities joined the search for missing Neptune City teen Sarah Stern over the weekend.
Stern, 19, was reported missing Fri., Dec. 2 when a car she had been driving was found abandoned in Belmar on the Route 35 Bridge.
The keys to the vehicle, a 1994 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight Royal which belonged to her grandmother, were still inside the car when it was discovered. The car was determined to be in good working order.
According to published reports Stern’s father Michael said Sarah left her family home at 11:45 p.m. on Friday and the car was later found on the bridge Saturday at 2:45 a.m.
Although a search of the area by air and water was conducted on Sat. Dec. 3, there was no search conducted on Sunday. The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office joined the search on Sun., Dec. 4.
“An extensive search in the water and the surrounding area was conducted in an attempt to locate Miss Stern with negative results,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said.
The Belmar Water Rescue Team was assisted by the United States Coast Guard, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team, the Area Network of Shore Water Emergency Responders (ANSWER) team and the New Jersey State Police.
Those assets searched the Shark River with divers, boats and helicopters over the next several days, but no persons were found in the water.
According to a statement from the prosecutor’s public information officer Charles Webster this week, detectives have continued to investigate her whereabouts since that time.
The Prosecutor’s Office and the Belmar Police Department are joined in the investigation by the State Police Missing Persons Unit, Neptune City Police Department and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The investigation is active and ongoing with all possible scenarios being explored.
As the search continued more than a week after Stern’s disappearance, Ocean Grove resident Carol Wander met with other volunteers on the lawn in front of the Great Auditorium on Sun., Dec. 11 at 8:30 a.m. to search for Sarah.
Sunday’s search followed one held Saturday on Belmar’s beach, Wander said.
“As I approached it seemed like maybe 100 people were there and we were assigned to a team leader,” she said.
Wander said each team leader was responsible for searching specific areas of the beach. Teams walked side by side together and if they found anything they were instructed to call the team leader on their cell phone.
“We were told to stay where we found it and not touch anything. Then the team leader would contact the police,” Wander said.
“I found a set of keys and called Jason, my team leader. He called the police and they came and picked up the item and inspected it. But her keys were in her car and they didn’t think it was pertinent,” Wander said.
Wander also said another person found a black sneaker size 9 1/2 but Sarah wore a size 9.
Wander said her group walked from the boardwalk pavilion to Bradley Beach and then turned around and walked back to the Asbury Park boarder.
“It was surreal, it was really surreal. They were hoping to find her driver’s license or her hair, she had long brown hair,” Wander said.
Wander said the Empress Hotel in Asbury Park offered their facilities to anyone who needed to use them or to just warm up.
Wander said she joined the search because it was nearby.
“I did it because it was right here in Ocean Grove. I felt it was calling me, the whole thing was so upsetting and it was right here. I couldn’t not go,” she said. “Family members and friends were also searching; it was just chilling.”
Stern is described as a 19-year-old white female who stands about 5-foot 6-inches tall and weighing about 130 lbs. with a medium complexion, long dark brown hair that hangs past her shoulders and hazel eyes.
Anyone with information that may help the investigation is asked to contact Detective Brian Weisbrot from the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office at 732-431-7160 or Detective John Mahoney from the Belmar Police Department at 732-681-1700.
Gramiccioni said, “We are asking everyone to keep an eye out for this young woman, and report any possible sightings as soon as possible.”