Appeals Court decides Sean Phillips should stand trial for death of Baby Kate

Posted at 9:58 AM, Oct 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-23 09:58:25-04

LANSING, Mich. -- The Michigan Court of Appeals decided Friday that Sean Phillips should stand trial in the death of four-month-old Katherine Phillips, known as Baby Kate, who disappeared in June 2011 in Ludington. Baby Kate's body has never been found, and Phillips' lawyers argued there was not enough evidence for a trial.

The Court affirmed a lower court's decision that Phillips should go to trial.

The legal question was whether Phillips could be tried for murder if there was no body and there was no confession. But the Court of Appeals pointed to several statements Phillips made in letters to Kate's mother, Ariel Courtland, in which he described how Baby Kate was thrown from a car seat, that Phillips didn't know she was in the car seat, and by the time he realized what had happened it was too late to help Kate. He then claims he took the baby to a "peaceful place" and went home. Based on statements like that, the court said, "a jury could reasonably infer that defendant wanted to hide his involvement in Kate’s death because she had died as the result of criminal agency."

The case has seen a legal see saw of court decisions. When the Mason County prosecutor and the Michigan Attorney General sought to charge Phillips with open murder, a district court judge ruled that there wasn't evidence that Baby Kate had died from criminal action. A circuit court decision reversed that ruling on the grounds that circumstantial evidence existed that showed "criminal agency." The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's ruling.

Phillips is currently serving a 10-15 year sentence since he was convicted unlawful imprisonment in the case.