Schoolgirl ‘excited’ before fatal Christmas trip

Justin Stein has been found guilty of murdering nine-year-old Charlise Mutten, who was shot before her body was dumped in a barrel by a river.

Justin Stein has been found guilty of murdering nine-year-old Charlise Mutten, who was shot before her body was dumped in a barrel by a river. Photo: AAP

Charlise Mutten was happy to be spending Christmas with her mother and alleged killer before she was shot and her body dumped in a barrel, a jury has heard.

Justin Laurens Stein, 33, is accused of murdering the schoolgirl on or around January 12, 2022, at Mount Wilson, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Charlise’s grandfather, Clinton Mutten, appeared as the Crown’s first witness on Tuesday, describing his granddaughter as an academic all-rounder who loved animals and had dreams of becoming a veterinarian.

The nine-year-old had lived with her grandparents from around the age of four after it became clear her mother was unable to properly care for her, the NSW Supreme Court jury heard.

“I took her to school, I was the one who sat down at the parent-teacher interviews,” Mutten said.

“I was very much involved with Charlise.”

The trial began on Monday with the claim by Stein’s lawyer that it was the girl’s mother, Kallista Mutten, who pulled the trigger in the fatal shooting.

Stein and Mutten were in a relationship after they met while serving time in prison.

Both had histories of drug use, with Stein convicted of drug-supply offences and Mutten having consumed ice from a young age.

Mutten said his daughter had maintained a “very strong” relationship with Charlise and would contact her regularly.

“She would look forward to communicating with her,” he said.

“It was always there and it was unconditional.”

Charlise had also “really liked” Stein and on one occasion asked if he thought the accused murderer would be a good dad, Mutten said.

The nine-year-old travelled from the Gold Coast to Sydney in December 2021 with plans to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with her mother and Stein.

Mutten said the girl was “happy and excited” about the trip and he was not concerned for her safety despite the couple’s history of drug use.

“I was under the impression that both had cleaned their act up,” he said.

Charlise was reported missing by her mother on January 14, 2022.

During that time, the couple and Charlise divided their time between a property at Mount Wilson and a caravan at the Riverview Ski Park, roughly 90 minutes away, the court was told.

On the night of January 12, Charlise was taken back to Mount Wilson by Stein alone, while Mutten remained at the caravan, prosecutors said.

CCTV images captured the 33-year-old at a BP service station at Marsden Park, in north-west Sydney, the next day.

He was towing a boat behind his Holden Colorado ute, which was also allegedly transporting a barrel containing Charlise’s body.

The barrel was found wedged in a tree near the Colo River, north-west of Sydney, on January 18, four days after Charlise was reported missing.

She had been shot once in the head and once in the lower back.

The trial is expected to run for six weeks.


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