Phillips case adjourned for three months

April 4, 2014
Sean Phillips being led away by Mason County Sheriff's corrections officers.

Sean Phillips being led away by Mason County Sheriff’s corrections officers.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief. 

LUDINGTON — The case against Sean Phillips has been adjourned for three months. Following the prosecution’s final witness in the 79th District Court preliminary examination, the defense team asked for time to have an expert analyze a piece of evidence. The defense had no witnesses to present during the hearing.

Sheriff's Det. Sgt. Tom Posma.

Sheriff’s Det. Sgt. Tom Posma.

It is presumed that piece of evidence is the alleged confession letter Phillips sent to Ariel Courtland, the mother of their daughter Haley and of Katherine, who has not been seen since she was 4-months-old in June 2011. Because only a judge decides the probable cause in an preliminary examination, details of some evidence are not presented to the open court, unlike in a jury trial.

Sean Phillips is serving a 10 to 15 year prison sentence for the unlawful imprisonment of Katherine, also known as Baby Kate. In October 2013 he was charged with the open murder of the baby, even though no body has been found. Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola and the Michigan Attorney General’s office state the charges are based on circumstantial evidence.

The purpose of a preliminary examination is for the prosecution to show that there is probable cause to send the case to circuit court for trial. In Michigan, circuit courts try felonies.

For the past two days, several witnesses appeared in front of Judge Pete Wadel, who is the sole decision maker regarding whether or not there is probable cause in the matter.

The last witness today was Mason County Sheriff’s Det. Sgt. Tom Posma, the lead investigator in the case

While many people have speculated that Katherine, also known as Baby Kate, is still alive and was given up or sold for adoption, Posma said there is no evidence to indicate that has been the case. He said investigators, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have looked into several possible leads that were found on Sean’s computer and on Ariel Courtland’s computer; Ariel was the mother of Baby Kate.

While the couple considered adoption, they did not go through with it, Posma said.

Instead, all evidence leads to murder.

Posma said that investigators have narrowed down the area where Phillips may have left the body to creek in northwest Grant Township.

In three months the court will reconvene. In the meantime Phillips is being returned to prison.

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