Attorney general’s office involved in Phillips murder case

October 4, 2013

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LUDINGTON — Attorney General Bill Schuette and Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola today announced the joint filing of a murder charge against Sean Phillips, father of Katherine Phillips, the Ludington infant missing for two years and known as “Baby Kate” in the media. Sean Phillips, 23, of Victory Township, has been charged with one count of open murder.

The criminal charge follows a multi-jurisdictional investigation by local, state and federal authorities. Schuette and Spaniola were joined at the announcement by Ludington Police Chief Mark Barnett, Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole, and First Lieutenant Kevin Leavitt of the Michigan State Police.

“My job as Attorney General is to serve as a voice for victims, no matter who you are or where you live,” said Schuette. “The filing of this open murder charge moves us one step closer to securing justice for Baby Kate.

“Since Mr. Phillips was convicted of unlawful imprisonment of Baby Kate in 2012, Detectives Tom Posma, Mike Kenney, (both of Mason County Sheriff’s Office) and JB Wells (Ludington Police Department) have spent countless hours continuing their investigation which began on June 29, 2011, the date that Katherine Phillips was last seen,” said Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola. “This continuing investigation has included review of biological evidence, site visits, and the enlistment of experts from all over the world who are preeminent in their fields. It is the objective of this prosecution to finally do justice for Baby Kate. The investigators and the local law enforcement community, and myself, are grateful for the assistance of the Attorney General for providing Assistant Attorney General Donna Pendergast and additional resources to assist local officials in this prosecution.”

Spaniola said he requested the help of the attorney general’s office last fall. With recent high profile cases, such as last year’s police shooting in Ludington and the recent fatal shooting of Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield, he said he knows he made the right decision.

“Today’s announcement is the result of dedication and a collaborative effort among law enforcement investigators and prosecutors to secure justice for Baby Kate,” said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, Director of the Michigan State Police. “The Michigan State Police is pleased to have been able to assist with the investigation that led to this criminal charge being filed.”

Schuette and Spaniola filed one count of Open Murder, a felony punishable by up to life in prison, against Sean Phillips in Ludington’s 79th District Court on October 4, 2013. The charge alleges that Sean Phillips murdered his daughter, Katherine ‘Kate’ Phillips on June 29, 2011. By definition, an Open Murder charge allows jurors to determine the level of the defendant’s culpability.

“I’d like to thank Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola, Chief Mark Barnett, Sheriff Kim Cole, the Michigan State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for providing their assistance in this ongoing investigation.”

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