Jury seated in Baby Kate case.

September 28, 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 MCP’s Rob Alway and Allison Scarbrough.

LUDINGTON — A jury of seven men and seven women were selected during the third day of jury selection Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 28, in the 51st Circuit Court during the murder trial of Sean Michael Phillips.

At the end of the trial, two of the jurors will be dismissed.

Opening arguments by the prosecution and defense are scheduled to begin Thursday morning, Sept. 29, at 9 a.m.

Each juror was sworn in by Judge Peter Wadel, who provided verbal instructions of their duties. “As jurors, you are the ones who will decide this case,” Wadel said. “This your job and no one else’s.” The court also provides the jurors with written instructions.

The 14 jurors (including the two alternates) were selected from a pool of 250 potential jurors.

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.

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.

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