Officers were first to discover Baby Kate’s clothes

April 4, 2014
Undersheriff Jody Hartley holds the clothes he found in Sean Phillips' pocket.

Undersheriff Jody Hartley holds the clothes he found in Sean Phillips’ pocket.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief. 

LUDINGTON — Ludington Police Officer Tony Kuster was the first witness to testify this morning in the 79th District Court preliminary examination of the State of Michigan vs. Sean Michael Phillips. Phillips is charged with the June 29, 2011 murder of his 4-month-old daughter Katherine Shelbie Elizabeth Phillips, also known as “Baby Kate”.

At the time of the alleged murder, Kuster was serving as acting detective, substituting for Det. J.B. Wells, who was off duty due to an injury.

LPD Officer Tony Kuster holds Baby Kate's diaper bag.

LPD Officer Tony Kuster holds Baby Kate’s diaper bag.

Kuster and Mason County Sgt. Jody Hartley (now undersheriff) were the first two law enforcement officers to make face-to-face contact with Sean that afternoon.

Kuster said Sean’s demeanor was one who seemed to be very nervous. He said Sean was clinching his fists and flexing his arms and pacing. When asked if he knew where Katherine was, Sean’s first response was, “‘It’s with Ariel,’” Kuster said.

Later, Kuster testified, Sean referred to the baby by her name, Katherine, rather than “it”.

Hartley patted down Phillips while the two were interviewing him. He found baby clothing in the front pocket of Sean’s cargo shorts. The clothes were later identified to be the last clothes that Baby Kate was seen wearing.

The officers proceeded to search Phillips’ vehicle, including the trunk. In the trunk they found an infant carseat and a diaper bag. They also found a used diaper in the front seat of the vehicle.

The two then arrested Phillips and Hartley transported him to the Mason County Jail where he was placed in an interview room where he was later interviewed by Det. Sgt. Tom Posma.


Officer Kuster speaks with Judge Wadel.

Today’s hearing is not a trial but a preliminary examination. The purpose of the examination is for the prosecution to prove that there is enough evidence to turn the matter over to circuit court. Judge Wadel will make that decision.

The examination is expected to end this afternoon.

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