Sean Phillips’ mom testifies in Baby Kate murder trial

LUDINGTON, Mich. (WOOD) —  The mother of Sean Phillips has taken the stand to testify in his murder trial.

Phillips, 26, is charged with open murder in the death of his 4-month-old daughter Katherine Phillips, dubbed Baby Kate.

During Friday’s testimony, Kimberly Phillips admitted to telling Kate’s mother, Ariel Courtland, to portray Phillips as a good father.

>>App users: Watch part 1 of Kim Phillips’ testimony here.

“You never met Katherine?” Assistant Attorney General Donna Pendergast asked.

“Correct,” Kimberly said.

Sean Phillips never admitted to his parents that Baby Kate was his child.

“He denied being the father,” Kimberly said.

Kimberly said while she and her son were active in the life of his older daughter with Courtland, no one in the Phillips family wanted them to have more children.

Kimberly admitted what she said to her son when she found out Courtland was pregnant with Kate:

“It better not be yours,” she recalled.

Kimberly said her son was set to deploy to Afghanistan with the National Guard and he did not want another child. She said that Courtland and her son also had a rocky relationship.

“It did seem like they fought an awful lot and they were both young,” she explained.

Kimberly said she was called by Courtland on June 29, 2011, who said Sean had disappeared with Kate.

Ariel Courtland, mom of Baby Kate, takes the stand for a second day in the Sean Phillips murder trial. (Sept. 30, 2016)
Ariel Courtland, mom of Baby Kate, takes the stand for a second day in the Sean Phillips murder trial. (Sept. 30, 2016)

She said later, Sean returned to his family home and seemed unaffected until police came and took him away.

Kimberly testified that she only knew for sure that Kate was her granddaughter when a DNA test confirmed it.

She said her son has never said anything about where Kate is.

>>App users: Watch part 2 of Kim Phillips’ testimony here.

Courtland was grilled by defense lawyers earlier Friday about her actions leading up to her infant daughter’s June 2011 disappearance, after testifying that she had nothing to do with it.  Courtland has been on the stand for more than five hours of the trial, describing her pregnancy and the birth and short life of Baby Kate.

>>App users: Watch part 1 of Courtland’s Friday testimony here.

Courtland said the last time she saw her infant daughter was in the back seat of Phillips’ car in a parking lot outside a Ludington apartment complex. However, Phillips’ defense attorney David Glancy concentrated on what happened before that day.

Kate Phillips, Sean Phillips
Left: Undated courtesy photo of Kate Phillips. Right: Sean Phillips in court in April 2014.

Glancy challenged the prosecution’s notion that it was Phillips alone who thought about terminating the pregnancy and then putting Kate up for adoption. Introducing numerous text messages sent by Courtland to Phillips, the defense tried to show that Courtland was just as interested in getting rid of Kate as the baby’s father was – an allegation Courtland flatly denied.

“Sounds like you wanted to get an abortion?” Glancy asked. “Yes,” Courtland reluctantly answered.

Courtland said at one point she took $60 from Phillips for an abortion but instead spent it on baby clothes.

“Was it money for abortion or to buy clothes?” Asked Glancy.

“It was both,” Courtland said.

After Kate was born, the two communicated often about putting her up for adoption. At one time, Courtland admitted she lied to Phillips telling him there was a family that wanted Kate.

Courtland was sure in her account about the day that Sean took Kate and she was never seen again. She said there is no way Sean could not have known the baby was in the backseat of the car.

She said Kate was without her pacifier. which she believes would have been unacceptable for the infant.

“There’s no way that she didn’t go that whole time, she didn’t cry,” Courtland said.

>>App users: Watch part 2 of Courtland’s Friday testimony here.

As many as 60 witnesses could testify in Phillips trial.  It’s possible his mother, who allegedly never met Baby Kate, could take the stand in the murder trial.

The trial is expected to last three weeks.