Accused killer says mum pulled the trigger on her girl

Duncan Murray |

Justin Stein is on trial accused of murdering nine-year-old Charlise Mutten in January, 2022.
Justin Stein is on trial accused of murdering nine-year-old Charlise Mutten in January, 2022.

A man accused of murdering schoolgirl Charlise Mutten claims it was actually the girl’s mother who pulled the trigger and that he helped dispose of the body before lying to police.

Justin Laurens Stein, 33, is facing trial for allegedly murdering Charlise on or around January 12, 2022, at Mount Wilson, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

He formally pleaded not guilty in the Supreme Court on Monday, with his lawyer telling a jury they will argue the nine-year-old’s mother shot the schoolgirl rather than him.

Kallista Mutten (file image)
Charlise’s mother Kallista Mutten met accused murderer Stein in prison. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

Stein was in a relationship with Charlise’s mother, Kallista Mutten, after the pair met while both serving jail sentences, the jury heard.

Both struggled with substance abuse, with Ms Mutten using the drug ice from when she was aged in her early 20s, and Stein undergoing treatment for heroin addiction.

Charlise was shot once in the head and once in the back, with her body recovered from a barrel dumped near the Colo River, four days after she was reported missing by her mother.

Prior to the alleged murder, Stein and Ms Mutten broke into a neighbour’s home near the Mount Wilson property, taking two firearms including a .22 bolt-action hunting rifle, crown prosecutor Ken McKay SC told the jury.

After discovering Charlise’s body, police seized the pair’s mobile phones which were used to track their movements around the time of the death, between the Mount Wilson property and another location used by the couple at the Riviera Ski Park, roughly an hour-and-a-half drive away. 

Prosecutors told the jury, phone records showed Ms Mutten acting in a way consistent with a belief that her daughter was missing, including messages to Stein urging him to find her.

At the time of her death Charlise was living with her grandparents at Tweed Heads, and had flown to Sydney on December 21 with plans to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with her mother and Stein.

Kallista Sue Mutten (centre, file image)
Evidence would show Kallista Mussen had motive to carry out the killing, Stein’s lawyer said. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

On January 14, Ms Mutten contacted police and reported her daughter missing. 

Stein initially told police the girl may have been taken by unknown persons, but later told a corrections officer Ms Mutten had shot and killed her daughter and that he had helped dispose of the body.

Stein’s lawyer, Carolyn Davenport SC, said her client had changed what he told police because he had initially been trying to protect Ms Mutten.

Stein had been inside a shed on the Blue Mountains property when he heard a gunshot, and had gone outside to see Ms Mutten firing a second shot into her daughter, Ms Davenport told the jury.

She said evidence would show it was Charlise’s mother who had motive to carry out the killing, rather than Stein.

Colo River view (file image)
Charlise’s body was recovered from a barrel dumped near the Colo River. (Flavio Brancaleone/AAP PHOTOS)

On Monday, the jury was shown CCTV images of Stein towing a boat with his ute, with a barrel in the back tray which prosecutors allege contained Charlise’s body, as well as 90kg of sand.

Stein was captured on camera stopping once to purchase five 20kg bags of sand and on another occasion to purchase a can of Coke, a slushie and a Snickers bar before the body was disposed of, the court was told.

Mr McKay argued Stein had been trying to convince Ms Mutten her daughter had been taken by other people – potentially linked to his criminal past – and that he was trying to get her back.

In fact, he said, Stein had been trying to find a place to launch the boat with the intention of dumping the barrel and Charlise’s body in the water.

The trial is expected to run for six weeks.