Day three of jury selection in Baby Kate murder trial continues Wednesday.

September 27, 2016
Shown from left: Sean Phillips, defense attorney David Glancy, Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola, Mason County sheriff Det. Sgt. Tom Posma.

Shown from left: Sean Phillips, defense attorney David Glancy, Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola, Mason County sheriff Det. Sgt. Tom Posma.

#BabyKate #MasonCountyNews

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — The second day of jury selection in the 51st Circuit Court murder trial of Sean Michael Phillips ended Tuesday with 69 jurors out of 250 being dismissed. More people will be report to jury duty at the Mason County Courthouse Wednesday morning.

Phillips is on trial for allegedly murdering his 4-month-old daughter, Katherine Shelby Phillips, also known as Baby Kate. He was the last person seen with the infant on June 29, 2011 after he and the baby’s mother, Ariel Courtland, had an argument about the girl, according to prior testimony. Phillips was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison in 2012 for unlawful imprisonment. Law enforcement officials from both Ludington Police Department and Mason County Sheriff’s Office have said multiple times that there is no evidence indicating that Courtland should be a suspect in the case. She is expected to testify during the trial.

Judge Peter Wadel has instated an unprecedented practice of calling each potential juror into judge’s chambers along with attorneys and the defendant. Typically criminal court proceedings, including jury selection, are open to the public. Wadel has told members of the media that the judge’s chambers are too small for anyone else to fit into, even though the commissioners’ meeting room across the hall would be adequate size. He has also instructed dismissed jurors not to speak about what happened during questioning. He has told reporters that he is confident his actions are constitutional.

The evidence against Phillips murdering his daughter are mostly circumstantial because her body has never been found. One of the key pieces of evidence is a letter Phillips allegedly wrote to Courtland early in his prison term. In the letter, which is unsigned but presumed to have been written by Phillips, the author claims he hurt Baby Kate after he drove away from Courtland following an argument at her apartment. He then drove to Wendy’s restaurant on US 10 in Pere Marquette Township where he grabbed the carseat, with the child in it, and threw the carseat, allegedly killing her at that time. The letter was written in July 2012, three months after Phillips was sentenced.

Since 2012, detectives from Mason County Sheriff’s Office and Ludington Police Department have worked with botanical experts who have identified certain plant materials that were on Phillips’ shoes when he was arrested. Extensive searches were conducted in Grant Township, where that combination of plant materials is known to grow. However, no evidence of the child was found. Law enforcement has eliminated the possibility that the baby was somehow given up or sold to someone else.

WOOD TV 8 reported that Phillips’ defense team revealed Monday that it had offered to plead to manslaughter but the offer was rejected by the prosecution.

Jury selection will continue again Wednesday.

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