LUDINGTON, Mich. (WWJ/AP) – A judge has ordered a murder trial against a northern Lower Peninsula man accused of killing his missing infant daughter.

The move Friday by Mason County Circuit Judge Richard Cooper reverses the September dismissal of the charge against Sean Phillips by District Judge Peter Wadel. State and county prosecutors appealed.

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Phillips’ daughter Katherine, a 4-month-old widely known as “Baby Kate,” disappeared in June 2011 in the Ludington area, about 80 miles northwest of Grand Rapids. Her body remains missing.

Phillips is serving 10 to 15 years in prison for unlawful imprisonment for failing to return Katherine to her mother, Ariel Courtland.

Wadel in April called a time-out in the trial to allow defense experts to examine a letter authorities say links Sean Phillips to his daughter’s disappearance. Phillips’ handwritten letter to Courtland allegedly says the baby was accidentally killed and left in a “peaceful place.”

In dismissing the murder charges, Wadel said there isn’t enough evidence to show that Katherine is dead or that Phillips committed murder.

Cooper says Wadel “probably had an intelligent take” on the case but “reluctantly” agreed with prosecutors that state law allows them to pursue charges.

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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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