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Girl’s alleged murder weapon buried in bush

Written by on May 15, 2024

A flower enthusiast accidentally stumbled upon a stash of weapons police allege were used by a man accused of murdering the nine-year-old daughter of his partner, a jury has been told.

Justin Laurens Stein, 33, is facing a trial in the NSW Supreme Court at Parramatta after pleading not guilty to murder.

He is accused of murdering the nine-year-old, who was the daughter of his former partner Kallista Mutten, at a property owned by his parents before dumping her body in a plastic barrel near the Colo River area.

The jury, consisting of five women and 10 men, has been told Mr Stein is accused of shooting the girl before putting her body in a plastic barrel with sand and rolling it down the embankment.

While he disputes the murder, Mr Stein’s barrister Carolyn Davenport SC told the jury her client admits to disposing of Charlise’s body.

The jury has also been told Mr Stein had an “interest” in firearms, after he and Ms Mutten broke into a Mount Wilson house in August 2021 and stole property including two firearms.

One of the firearms was of “importance in the case,” the jury was told, with Mr Stein later ordering a hunting rifle scope on eBay in late 2021.

Crown prosecutor Ken McKay SC told the jury the scope, along with the weapons, was later found buried on a Mount Wilson fire trail.

The woman who stumbled across the weapons gave evidence in the trial on Tuesday.

Verity Harris has a keen interest in flowers and was walking down a bushtrack on January 30, 2022, almost two weeks after Charlise’s body was recovered, when she realised she had to go to the bathroom.

She found an “open area with a hole an animal had dug up” and went about her business, the jury was told, before finding a patch of dirt covered with sticks.

“It looked like a specially dug area that had been covered up with branches, I thought it looked odd,” Ms Harris told the court.

Ms Harris didn’t think about contacting police until she later spoke with her son, who is a volunteer for the Royal Fire Service.

He told her the RFS had been part of the search to find Charlise and suggested his mother report what she had seen to Crime Stoppers.

After reporting what she saw, police uncovered a blue tarp filled with two firearms and the scope allegedly bought by Mr Stein.

Mr McKay showed a photo of the contents of the tarp to the jury on Monday. They were told the scope had a fingerprint of the accused.

The jury was told Mr Stein had called his mother from prison months later on March 21, 2022, and asked her to “retrieve stuff for him from the mountains”.

“He said ‘I borrowed certain things from my friend, I dumped them in the bush so I need you to retrieve them for me’,” Mr McKay told the jury.

Mr Stein’s mother informed her son the police had already discovered the stash of weapons as she was shown an image by police, the jury heard, but he told his mother the “murder weapon isn’t anywhere to be found”.

After his arrest in January 2022, Mr Stein denied killing Charlise in an interview with a Corrective Services officer but said he was “in the vicinity when Kallista Mutten shot and killed the girl,” the jury heard.

The trial continues before Justice Helen Wilson.