Killer’s elaborate web of lies about murder of nine-year-old Charlise

Justin Stein killed his partner’s nine-year-old daughter Charlise Mutten in the Blue Mountains before he spun an elaborate story to explain her disappearance,pretended to search for the girl as he callously dumped her body and tried to pin it all on her mother.

A NSW Supreme Court jury of seven men and five women saw through his lies,finding Stein guilty of Charlise’s murder on Wednesday after two weeks of deliberations.

Justin Stein faced trial accused of murdering his fiancee’s daughter Charlise Mutten.

Justin Stein faced trial accused of murdering his fiancee’s daughter Charlise Mutten.Supplied

They retired to consider their verdict on June 6,and sent a note to the court on Wednesday morning that they had reached a verdict.

Justice Helen Wilson formally convicted Stein of murder. As she discharged the jury,she thanked them.

“You are free now to go home and head about your ordinary lives,” the judge said.

Stein,33,had pointed the finger at his former fiancee,Kallista Mutten,alleging she shot her daughter,which Mutten denied. Stein admitted he disposed of the body,claiming he “panicked” after finding it in a barrel on his ute.

Charlise,who lived in Tweed Heads with her grandparents,flew to Sydney on December 21,2021,to spend the holidays with her mother and Stein. On January 18,2022,the day she was due to fly home,police found her body in a barrel by the Colo River,with gunshot wounds to her face and back.

Justin Stein’s family estate Wildenstein in the Blue Mountains.

Justin Stein’s family estate Wildenstein in the Blue Mountains.Nine News

A toxic level of schizophrenia medication Seroquel was found in Charlise’s system. Stein had been medicated for schizophrenia since he was 21,but denied giving Charlise the drug.

More than 40 witnesses were called to give evidence. Prosecutors said Stein lied about where Charlise was when she was missing,what he was doing in the hours after he left home in a ute towing a boat and falsely claiming her mother was responsible.

An auctioneer,or a kidnapping

The Crown case was that Stein killed Charlise at his family’s Mount Wilson mansion,Wildenstein,on the night of January 11 or the morning of January 12,2022. Her mother was staying 1½ hours away at Stein’s caravan in Lower Portland.

“She said,‘Can I go with Daddy,Mum?’ ” Kallista Mutten told the court. “I said,‘Yes,of course.’ ”

Stein texted Mutten that night to say they were “safe and sound” and he was “cooking up some chicken” while Charlise played and watched TV.

At 10.06am on January 12,Stein messaged Mutten:“Am literally about to walk out the door. Charsey is staying put in bed. She’s wrecked,and already fallen back to sleep.”

Mutten said Stein told her Charlise was sick so he had left her in the care of a female auctioneer at the property who was “happy to mind her”.

Mutten said Stein collected her from the caravan park,and they travelled to Surry Hills to buy drugs and had sex in Centennial Park. At 8.44pm,they arrived back at Wildenstein to find it in darkness,prompting Mutten to search and call multiple local hospitals.

Kallista Mutten outside the NSW Supreme Court in Parramatta.

Kallista Mutten outside the NSW Supreme Court in Parramatta.Kate Geraghty

That night,Mutten went through Stein’s phone and found evidence he had been on dating sites. The court heard she twice left the home in Stein’s ute and sent texts to friends,including saying,“He left my daughter with someone,and she’s gone.”

Stein’s story then evolved. Mutten said Stein called his mother who said,“the auctioneer lady is not the auctioneer lady” and he suggested his former criminal associates may have kidnapped Charlise.

Through tears,Mutten told the court Stein said if she called the police,“they’ll kill her[Charlise]”.

A fake search to find Charlise

The Crown said Stein “put on a pretence” to find Charlise to cover up what he had done.

On the afternoon of January 13,Stein was captured on CCTV filling a boat with fuel and using a gift card to buy five 20-kilogram bags of sand and sealant at Bunnings.

In the back of his red Holden Colorado ute was a large item,said to be the barrel,covered by a tarp.

Phone data tracked him stopping at boat ramps in Rose Bay,Drummoyne and Windsor,and searching for the Sackville ferry crossing and Colo River.

Justin Stein drove his red ute across Sydney. Police say the barrel with Charlise’s body was in the tray.

Justin Stein drove his red ute across Sydney. Police say the barrel with Charlise’s body was in the tray.NSW Police

Crown prosecutor Ken McKay,SC,said Stein filled the barrel with sand and dumped it.

Mutten said Stein returned to Wildenstein in the early hours of January 14,telling her Charlise was not with his associates,and she could call police.

In the triple zero call from Mount Wilson at 8.15am,Mutten told the operator she had last seen Charlise “two nights ago” and “she was here,I wasn’t here,my partner was here”.

Prosecutors said Stein buried the murder weapon,a .22 calibre BSA bolt-action rifle,on a Mount Wilson fire trail. The gun,which had Stein’s fingerprint on it,was found in February 2022.

An attempt to blame Kallista

Stein’s lawyers disputed the date of Charlise’s death and arguedher mother pulled the trigger.

Stein said Charlise was sick on the morning of January 12,but insisted he put her in his car before collecting her mother from the caravan park.

Stein said the trio travelled to Surry Hills and bought drugs but denied the couple had sex,claiming Charlise watched him walk his dog while her mother was “shooting up in the toilets”.

At Mount Wilson that night,Stein claimed he asked Charlise if she wanted anything to eat and then worked on a car in the shed.

A sketch of Justin Stein giving evidence at his trial in the NSW Supreme Court.

A sketch of Justin Stein giving evidence at his trial in the NSW Supreme Court.Vincent de Gouw

Stein said he heard a gunshot,then Charlisescreamed his name and said,“Mummy,no,” before a second gunshot. He said he saw Mutten standing over her daughter’s body with a rifle,and she demanded he get a tarp.

Stein said when he returned from the shed,there was no sign of Mutten or Charlise and there was a square of dirt cut out of the ground. He said he smoked a joint and fell asleep.

The next day,on January 13,Stein said he loaded what he believed to be an empty barrel onto his ute and stopped at Bunnings to buy supplies for renovations to his caravan.

He said he assumed Charlise’s body was put in the barrel when he was not looking,and he “threw up” upon discovering it that night.

Stein admitted he had lied to police about the auctioneer and criminal associates,but claimed Mutten made up the stories and he “just went along with it”.

The prosecutor labelled Stein’s version of events “nonsense”.

“The truth is that he killed her,” McKay said.

Stein will face a sentence hearing on August 23.

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Sarah McPhee is a court reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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