Man arrested after missing 9-year-old’s body is found

Charlise Mutten, 9, of Tweed Heads, NSW, Australia.

Sydney, Australia: 9-year-old Charlise Mutten was reported missing on the morning of Friday, January 14 sparking a frantic search for the missing girl in the Blue Mountain bushland of Australia.


Hundreds of people gathered to search both on land, in the water, and from the air. On Tuesday, January 18 that search came to an end when what investigators believe to be her body was located at the bottom of a barrel that had been dumped near the Colo River.


One of the men that assisted in the search was Rural Fire Service volunteer Darren Rodrigo.  After spending days scouring the countryside for the girl, he was deeply shaken by the discovery.


"We knew things didn't stack up from the beginning when we started the search but we had to operate on the basis we were looking for a missing girl," Mr. Rodrigo told ABC AU. "Murders and death, when it happens to other people, it seems so detached- but it becomes much more real when you are there looking for the person for hours in the bush.


"There was a lot of love for Charlise here- hundreds of people I think gave their heart and soul to find her- it is just devastating. It's affected me in ways I didn't expect really, it's been tougher than I thought it would be."


The remains have been described as "consistent" with those of Charlise, but the medical examiner will confirm identity as well as establish cause and manner of death.


The following day her mother's fiancé, 31-year-old Justin Stein was arrested and charged with her murder.


It was initially reported that neither he nor Charlise's mother were suspected of having any involvement with the girl's disappearance, but that changed as Stein's story seemed to become increasingly inconsistent.


"What we are sure of is that the accused that we charged with murder was responsible for, firstly, placing her in the barrel, an d then disposing of that barrel in the bushland where she was located," Deputy Commissioner Dave Hudson told gathered media on Wednesday. "Things will unravel over the next week or so to find a cause of death, the purpose for a death, and try to identify exactly what happened so that the remaining family have some comfort in that."


During an initial court appearance, Stein's attorney requested a full mental-health assessment, stating that his client had "significant mental-health problems" for some time.


He has additionally requested to be placed in solitary confinement over concerns for his safety.


At this time, investigators believe that Charlise likely died some time between 7:00 pm on  Tuesday, January 11 and 10:00 am on Wednesday, January 12, despite her not being reported missing until Friday.


Charlese's biological father, Scott Hensby took to Facebook to post a farewell to his little girl saying, "This doesn't need to happen! Kids need to be safe. What is wrong with you people???"


Stein will remain in custody and is due back in court in March.