I didn’t kill Charlise: mum’s partner
The stepfather of schoolgirl Charlise Mutten, accused of murdering her and dumping her body in a barrel, will fight the charges at trial after pleading not guilty.
Justin Stein, 32, appeared at Penrith Local Court via audiovisual link on Friday, charged with a raft of offences including murder, interfering with a corpse, and possession of child abuse material.
He is accused of murdering Charlise, the daughter of his fiancee, and dumping her body in a plastic barrel.
The nine-year-old’s body was found with gunshot wounds in bushland near the Colo River in NSW’s Central Tablelands in January last year.
In Penrith Local Court on Friday, Mr Stein’s lawyer Peter Katsoolis entered not guilty pleas to the charges of murder, interfering with a corpse and possession of child abuse material.
When asked by Magistrate Fiona Toose whether he was pleading not guilty, Mr Stein said: “Yes, that’s correct”.
Mr Stein was committed to stand trial in the NSW Supreme Court for the charges of murder (domestic violence related) and interfering with a corpse.
He will be arraigned in the Supreme Court in July.
Outside court, Mr Katsoolis told reporters Mr Stein will be defending the charges.
“He’s maintained his innocence from the outset in relation to these charges, and they’ll be vigorously defended,” Mr Katsoolis said.
Charlise had been visiting her mother and Mr Stein at a Blue Mountains property, where police allege she was killed. There is no suggestion that Charlise’s mother was involved in her death, and she has never been accused of any wrongdoing in this respect.
Police mapped Mr Stein’s movements in the hours following her disappearance, from the property to the northwest and inner west suburbs of Sydney, where they allege he tried multiple times to launch a boat alleged to have contained her body.
After being unable to start the boat, it is alleged Mr Stein travelled back to the Colo River, near where Charlise’s body was eventually found.
The disappearance of the Tweed Heads schoolgirl on January 14, 2022, sparked a lengthy multi-agency search of the surrounding bushlands, involving hundreds of volunteers.
Police allege Mr Stein murdered Charlise either on the evening of January 11 or in the early hours of January 12 when they were alone together at the property.
Charlise was living with her grandparents in Coolangatta and was visiting her mother over the Christmas school holidays when she disappeared.
Mr Stein was arrested in January 2022 and has remained behind bars on remand ever since.