Baby Kate’s mother told FBI that Phillips threatened to strangle oldest daughter.

September 30, 2016
Ariel Courtland testifying in 51st Circuit Court.

Ariel Courtland testifying in 51st Circuit Court.

#BabyKate #MasonCountyCourtNews

Story posted by our news partner, WZZM with additions by MCP. 
LUDINGTON — Ariel Courtland, the mother of Katherine Phillips (Baby Kate), told jurors Friday that Sean Phillips once said he might strangle their first daughter.  That was just one portion of hours of testimony Courtland provided in the 51st Circuit Court murder trial against Phillips at the Mason County Courthouse.Sean Phillips is charged with murder in connection to the June 29, 2011 disappearance of his then-4-month-old daughter, Katherine.

Kim Phillips, mother of Sean Phillips

Kim Phillips, mother of Sean Phillips

Since the day ‘Baby Kate’ was last seen alive Ariel Courtland has done more than a dozen interviews with police.  She has also testified in court under oath multiple times.  The prosecution and defense are both cherry picking pieces from Courtland’s previous statements that best fit into their theories about what happened to Kate.

Defense attorney David Glancy is after reasonable doubt, and he has more than 100 text-messages between Courtland and Phillips to use in that effort.

The content of those 2010 and 2011 text messages show two teenage parents considering abortion and then eventually adoption for their second child Katherine Phillips.

“He is the one that brought it up and talked about it and then I started going along with it hoping that I would be able to change my views,” said Courtland.

Courtland told jurors their differing opinions never escalated out of control, that Sean never threatened to hurt her or their unborn child if she didn’t have an abortion.

Courtland has provided the court and investigators contrasting descriptions of Phillips.  On Friday she testified Phillips was a good dad.

Ludington Police Officer Chad Skiba

Ludington Police Officer Chad Skiba

Prosecutor Donna Pendergast, of the Michigan Attorney General’s office, easily found previous statements from Courtland that contradict Friday’s testimony.  In a transcript from 2011 Courtland told FBI investigators that Sean once said he might hurt his oldest daughter, Hailey.  She is the older sister of Kate, who was last seen in the back sear of Phillip’s car on June 29, 2011.

“That he had thoughts of hurting her, and that is why he asked me to be around when he was there or one of his parents,” said Courtland.

Donna Pendergast,, Michigan Assistant Attorney General asked Courtland to tell the jury the specific threat Phillips made.  “I think he said suffocating, or strangling, or something like that,” Courtland responded.

The prosecution is also using the text messages that have been entered into evidence.  Some show much of what Courtland wrote to Phillips about a family ready to adopt Kate were lies.

Sean Phillips

Sean Phillips

The jurors, seven men and seven women, heard from the first police officer, Chad Skiba of the Ludington Police Department, to talk with Courtland on June 29th, 2011.  Skiba said Courtland was frantic, and was holding Kate’s pacifier.  Police began searching for Phillips and ‘Baby Kate’.  Phillips was located at his parents home in Victory Township later that same afternoon.  Kate has not been located.

Also testifying Friday was Kimberly Phillips, the defendant’s mother, and paternal grandmother of Baby Kate. Kim Phillips testified that her son denied being responsible for getting Courtland pregnant with Kate. She also testified that the Sean and Ariel had a stormy relationship and she wasn’t sure if it was in her son’s best interest.

The trial will resume Monday.  Judge Peter Wadel told jurors it is expected to last three-weeks.  Some 60-witnesses may be called.  Phillips is already serving a 10-15 year prison sentence for a conviction of unlawful imprisonment relating to the disappearance of  Kate.  That conviction happened following a trial in 2012.


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