LUDINGTON (WWJ/AP) – A key court hearing is set to resume for a western Michigan man accused of killing his baby daughter.
Sean Phillips’ preliminary examination on an open murder charge is scheduled for Thursday in district court in Ludington.
Phillips’ daughter Katherine, a 4-month-old widely known as “Baby Kate,” disappeared in June 2011. Her body hasn’t been found.
Judge Peter Wadel in April called a time-out in the hearing to allow defense experts to examine a letter authorities say links Sean Phillips to his daughter’s disappearance. Phillips’ handwritten letter to the girl’s mother allegedly says the baby was accidentally killed and left in a “peaceful place.”
A copy of the letter was obtained by WOOD-TV8. Click here to read the letter (.pdf format)
Wadel must decide whether there’s probable cause to put Phillips on trial for murder.
Phillips has been imprisoned since 2012, serving a 10 to 15 year sentence after being convicted of unlawful imprisonment for failing to return Katherine to her mother, Ariel Courtland.
Courtland has said Phillips told her that Katherine is still alive, but extensive searches haven’t turned up the girl. Investigators have also tried to find the girl’s body by examining seeds and other plant material on Phillips’ shoes.
Prosecutors say Phillips took the baby from Courtland because he feared a court-ordered paternity test would show he was the father. Courtland said Phillips wanted to put Katherine up for adoption, but she refused.
According to court testimony, officers from the Mason County Sheriff’s Department went to Phillips’ house on June 29, 2011 to talk to him after hearing about Katherine’s disappearance. Phillips allegedly told officers that the baby was with her mother, repeating that response three times.
When police asked whether Phillips was telling the whole truth, officers said he answered, “You’re right. I’m not telling you the whole truth.” That’s when officers noticed something was in Phillips’ cargo shorts pocket and did a pat down, finding baby clothes wadded up in a ball, according to court documents.
When one of the officers asked Phillips what it was, he answered, “Her clothes.” Officers immediately put Phillips in handcuffs.
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