LUDINGTON, Mich. (WOOD) — Testimony continued Monday in the murder trial of Sean Phillips, accused of killing his 4-month-old daughter Kate five years ago.
The little girl from Ludington became known as Baby Kate following her disappearance in June 2011 after her father drove off with her in the car. Police say Phillips turned off his phone, changed his shoes and went to Wendy’s before returning to his parents’ home near Scottville.
Monday, jurors heard from Ludington Police Officer Tony Kuster, who was the first officer to come into contact with Phillips hours after Kate went missing. He said Phillips seemed nervous and was pacing. Kuster said Phillips referred to Kate as “it,” saying “It is with Ariel” (her mother) when asked where she was. Some of Kate’s clothes were found in Phillips’ pocket, Kuster continued. A diaper bag and car seat were found in the trunk of his car.
Mason County Undersheriff Jody Hartley then took the stand, testifying that Phillips admitted “he was not telling the whole truth” about Kate. He described Phillips’ stance as aggressive, but said he was cooperative.
Jurors also watched the 75-minute police interview with Phillips from the day Kate disappeared. In that video, Phillips reiterated that he was uncertain Kate was actually his daughter. He went on to say that Kate’s mother, Ariel Courtland, got pregnant on purpose to entrap him. He impugned Courtland as being a person who would show up on a TV program like “Dr. Phil.”
Phillips and Courtland had gone to get a paternity test and then argued in the parking lot of Courtland’s apartment just before Kate vanished. In the video, Phillips claimed Courtland took Kate with her when she got out of his car.
It was well into the interview before Phillips was read his Miranda Rights and waived his right to an attorney and to remain silent.
Pressed on where Kate was, Phillips placed blame on Courtland.
“Are you going to do the right thing or the wrong thing?” Ludington Detective Tom Posma, the lead investigator on the case, asked Phillips in the video.
“The community won’t stand for this,” he continued.
Posma then flat-out accused Phillips of taking the child and leaving her somewhere. The conversation ended soon after that.
The prosecution’s case is based largely on circumstantial evidence, including a letter Phillips allegedly wrote in prison in which he confessed to throwing Kate’s car seat while she was still in it and then leaving her body in a “peaceful place.”
Her remains have not been found.