Prosecutors try to pin Phillips’ whereabouts in ‘Baby Kate’ murder trial

Ludington man accused of killing 4-month-old daughter in 2011

Sean Phillips and Katherine Phillips
Sean Phillips (left) appears in court Oct. 4, 2016 during his trial in the murder of his 4-month-old daughter, Katherine Phillips (right).

LUDINGTON, Mich. (WOOD) — Prosecutors Tuesday methodically tightened up the time frame when Sean Phillips disappeared with his 4-month-old daughter who was never seen again.

Katherine Phillips was last seen alive with Sean Phillips in June 2011. He’s already serving a prison sentence for unlawful imprisonment in her disappearance and is now standing trial for her murder.

It is important that every step that Sean Phillips took is documented if Assistant Attorney General Donna Pendergast is going to show he’s responsible for Baby Kate’s death.

But her timeline has been challenged by defense attorney David Glancy.

Sean Phillips' car
An image of Sean Phillips’ car, which was searched by police following Baby Kate’s disappearance.

Among those who testified Tuesday was Ellen Montgomery, a neighbor who overheard the argument between Sean Phillips and Ariel Courtland before he left the parking lot with Kate in tow on June 29, 2011.

Sean Phillips' fireworks
An image of the fireworks found in Phillips’ parents home in Scottville.

Wendy’s assistant manager Samantha Genter also testified she saw Sean Phillips place a drive-thru order during the time he couldn’t be reached or located after the infant disappeared that day.

After allegedly leaving Wendy’s, police determined Sean Phillips stopped to buy fireworks, which officers found on the kitchen counter of his parent’s home near Scottville when he was arrested.

Michigan State Police crime scene expert David Hayhurst said inside his room they found muddy shoes and a discarded birth announcement for the child he denied to his parents and friends.

Sean Phillips' muddy shoes
Retired Ludington Police Department Sgt. Matt McMellen holds up a once muddy shoe taken from Phillips’ bedroom.

Police also confiscated the car where Kate was last seen and searched it. In the trunk, they found her car seat and diaper bag.

Car seat and diaper bag in Sean Phillips' car
The car seat and diaper bag found in the trunk of Sean Phillips’s car.

Neighbor Christopher Merriman told police he saw Sean Phillips driving back and forth along some rural tracks that went through the woods near his home before police arrived. Mason County

Undersheriff Steve Hansen testified he searched the wooded area where tire tracks were seen, but turned up no clues to Baby Kate’s whereabouts.

The defense called into question Hansen’s objectivity in the case, revealing he said he didn’t want to see Phillips walking the street again within a day or two after Baby Kate’s disappearance.

Prosecutors believe Sean Phillips abandoned the infant, leaving her exposed to the elements.

Wednesday, the trial is expected to include more technical testimony as the prosecution builds its case, which 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.” Kate’s remains have not been found. But the attorney leading the prosecution, Assistant State Attorney General Donna Pendergast, is an expert in getting convictions in no-body murder cases.

The prosecution says its case is on schedule but it’s unclear what Sean Phillips’ defense has in store, including whether he will take the stand.

The trial started last week. It took three days to seat a jury, after which testimony began with Courtland. Phillips’ mother, Kim Phillips, also testified. On Monday, jurors heard from the law enforcement officers who spoke with Phillips on the day Kate disappeared and watched video of the first police interview with him.

Last week, Phillips’ defense team allegedly offered to plead to manslaughter, but prosecutors turned down that offer.

The trial is slated to last three weeks.