Verdict looms for schoolgirl’s alleged murderer

Duncan Murray |

Justin Stein has pleaded not guilty to murdering Charlise Mutten in January 2022.
Justin Stein has pleaded not guilty to murdering Charlise Mutten in January 2022.

A jury has begun to consider a verdict over the alleged murder of Charlise Mutten after being told the issue in the case is not how the schoolgirl died but who pulled the trigger.

After deliberating for two hours on Thursday, the 12 men and women had not yet reached a verdict. 

Charlise’s body was found near the Colo River, northwest of Sydney, on January 18, 2022 with gunshot wounds to her face and lower back.

Justin Stein, 33, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Charlise, claiming it was the girl’s mother, Kallista Mutten, who shot the nine year old.

Kallista Mutten
Kallista Mutten has denied having any involvement in her daughter’s death. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

Justice Helen Wilson concluded her instructions and summation of the evidence in the NSW Supreme Court trial and sent the jury to begin deliberations.

Stein admitted dumping Charlise’s body, but he said Ms Mutten shot her daughter and placed her body in a barrel on the back of his ute without his knowledge.

Ms Mutten denied having any involvement in her daughter’s death and broke down in tears when faced with the accusation in court.

Many of the facts of the case were not in dispute, including that Charlise died from gunshot wounds she sustained at or near a Mount Wilson estate owned by Stein’s mother.

“The issue is not how Charlise died, it’s who pulled the trigger,” Justice Wilson said.

The judge told jurors if they found there was a reasonable possibility Ms Mutten shot her own daughter, they must find Stein not guilty.

“The Crown has no evidence of someone who saw the shooting of Charlise by the accused,” she said.

Stein appeared as the defence’s only witness in the trial, spending two days going over his version of events.

At the time of her death, Charlise was visiting her mother and Stein from the Gold Coast, where she lived with her grandparents.

The trio spent their time between the Mount Wilson property and a caravan at the Riviera Ski Park, about a 90-minute drive away.

Charlise spent the night of January 11 alone with Stein at Mount Wilson, while her mother remained at the caravan, which is when prosecutors alleged he killed her.

Crown prosecutor Ken McKay SC said it was open for the jury to find Stein drugged and fatally shot Charlise.

Toxicology revealed Charlise had traces in her body of the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel, for which Stein had a prescription to treat schizophrenia.

The jury heard an adult dose of the drug would have a profound sedating effect on a child.

Flowers at vigil for Charlise Mutten (file image)
Toxicology showed traces of the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel in Charlise Mutten’s body. (Regi Varghese/AAP PHOTOS)

Mr McKay said a possible motive was that Stein killed Charlise when she became sick after he gave her the drug.

Stein denied giving Charlise the medication, instead claiming that she was shot by Ms Mutten on the evening of January 12.

He said he had gone along with a plan to cover up the murder, including lying to police about leaving the girl in the care of a woman who was valuing property at the Mount Wilson estate.

Stein claimed he was unaware Charlise’s body was in a barrel on the back of his ute until the next day and that he panicked and ultimately disposed of her remains when he found out.