Volunteers Hunt For Rare Plants In Effort To Locate Missing Baby Kate

Posted at 5:29 PM, Jun 28, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-28 20:08:22-04

Volunteers and botanists joined forces to search the woods in Northern Mason County for clues on the forest floor that could lead to finding the body of Baby Kate.

Kate’s father, Sean Phillips, was convicted of wrongfully imprisoning the child more than two years ago when he drove away with the baby in the car following an argument with her mother.

Since that time, police said he had written a letter admitting to killing his daughter, although he claimed it was an accident.

They have launched a homicide investigation surrounding the baby’s disappearance.

As part of the ongoing investigation, the efforts Friday involved a search for rare combinations of plants called Sedges or Carex Atlantica, Interior and Leptalea.  Those are grass-like plants that grow in or near water.

They were also looking for three types of moss commonly called Fat Peat Moss, Thin Peat Moss and Mnium Moss.

Michigan State University Scientists examined Phillip’s shoes and found fragments of those plants on them.

Those plants could hold the missing puzzle piece to solve the mystery of where baby Kate is.

“I remember when it first happened, a couple of years ago. I wouldn`t be here if I didn`t,” said Stephanie Hart, a botany instructor at Lansing Community College.

She drove from Howell to the Ludington area to assist in the search.

“It`s in my field, I love hanging out in the wetlands. And, why not use my talents for something that helps out in the case?” said Hart. “I`m alright with the Sedges. The mosses are pretty tough.”

That’s where specialists from the Chicago Field Museum like Laura Briscoe step in.

“The mosses require a certain amount of expertise and so my colleagues and myself will be there to help with the determination of the plants,” said Briscoe, a research assistant at the museum.

Briscoe says if they find the moss and the sedges it will help narrow down investigative hot zones.

“The assemblage of plants that  we are looking for is actually very specific and it`s not something that you could find anywhere, like a very specific sort of mosaic of different organisms all living together,” said Briscoe.

The teams will document and send specimens to a lab for confirmation, hoping to find justice after two long years.

“I think it haunted the entire community since it began,” said Bob Brown, Chief Deputy, Mason County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities say even if the specific types of plants are located during the search, the lab confirmation and mapping process to compile the data could take quite some time.