Judge to make decision if Sean Phillips heads to trial for open murder

Posted at 11:00 AM, Jul 31, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-31 14:56:07-04

LUDINGTON, Mich.,– After more than three years since her disappearance, prosecutors continue to seek justice for Katherine Phillips, known as ‘Baby Kate’.

Her father, Sean Phillips was back in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing, he faces an open murder charge. Court wrapped though Thursday with still no decision. The judge said he will make a final decision in two weeks on whether or not the case will be bound over for trial.

Phillips is already serving time behind bars for unlawful imprisonment, after fleeing with Kate after an argument with her mother.

Court was adjourned more than 3 months ago, as the defense requested analysis of a handwritten letter allegedly wrote by Phillips from prison. In the letter prosecutors say he made admissions about leaving Kate in a “peaceful place.”

Thursday the prosecution says they confirmed the letter had Phillips’ DNA on it and a handwriting expert confirmed it was his writing.

That letter was a big piece of debate Thursday, the prosecution says it included admissions but the defense called it a confession, something that under court law requires enough independent corroborating evidence to be admitted.

Defense attorney David Glancy says the letter and statements from a former inmate behind bars with Phillips should be admissible because they are a confession, “just not the confession the people want.” “All of those things are a confession, they’re a confession at most to manslaughter, the people don’t like that argument they want it be murder.”

Prosecutors though say the “admissions” in the letter including that Phillips set Baby Kate in a “peaceful place” can be used in “totality” with other evidence and testimony to show Phillips is responsible for murdering Baby Kate.

“He admits he never tried to help which I would say to the court are not the actions of an innocent man,” said Michigan assistant Attorney General Donna Pendergast.

After three years Baby Kate’s body still hasn’t been found even after several ground searches across Mason County. It’s a case that has touched many across the community and state, one the judge noted was difficult, for “many reasons.”

“Other means have been extensively searched out, extensive searches of counties, extensive investigations of the adoption angle those have been all ruled out by the police. Take the defendants statement coupled with all of the evidence I would suggest there is sufficient evidence to bind this over on an open murder charge,” said Pendergast.

An open murder charge means in a trial the jury would decide between first or second degree murder.

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