Phillips sentenced 19 to 45 years for murder of Baby Kate.

December 9, 2016

Phillips with his attorney, David Glancy.

Phillips with his attorney, David Glancy.

Phillips sentenced 19 to 45 years for murder of Baby Kate. 


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Sean Michael Phillips was sentenced Friday morning in 51st Circuit Court to serve 19 to 45 years in prison for the June 29, 2011 murder of his 4-month-daughter daughter, Katherine Shelbie-Elizabeth Phillips. The sentence will run concurrent with the sentence he is currently serving for the kidnapping of the baby on June 29, 2011.

Phillips, 26, of Victory Township was found guilty by a jury on October 14, following a three week trial in 51st Circuit Court. He is currently serving a 10-year-minimum prison sentence for the unlawful imprisonment (kidnapping) of Baby Kate and the new sentence would run concurrent. 

Katherine Phillips has not been seen since June 29, 2011, after she was last seen by her mother, Ariel Courtland, in the back of Phillips’s car. Phillips left Birch Lake Apartments on East Tinkham Avenue apartment after the he and Courtland had been arguing, according to testimony of Courtland and witnesses. For the next several hours his whereabouts and activities have never been confirmed. But, when law enforcement officers from Ludington Police Department and Mason County Sheriff’s Office found Phillips at his parents’ home on West Millerton Road in Victory Township, the baby was nowhere to be found; however, Phillips had the baby’s clothes in his pocket and had placed the carseat and diaper bag in the trunk of his car.

Prosecutor Donna Pendergast of the Michigan Attorney General’s office asked Judge Peter Wadel to sentence Phillips to 40 to 75 years, exceeding the state guidelines.

When asked by the judge if he had anything to say, Phillips responded, “Not at this time, your honor.”

Phillips became slightly emotional as Judge Wadel began to speak, prior to sentencing.

“This is a case that is a tragedy on so many levels,” Judge Wadel said. “I have listened carefully to the evidence… one thing that has come through, the ultimate tragedy is at which visited upon is the fate of Katherine Phillips. Mr. Phillips, as a father and as a parent, though you were not fully determined to be the parent at that time… you still had ample reason to know that that child was your child, because of the conduct and the intimacies you were engaged in with Ariel and because you had another daughter with Ariel.

“It is not lost on this court that you were way too young… that you had to arise to the occasion and take care of your daughter.

“Ariel was stepping up to the responsibility, somewhat slowly, but she was, came across that she was trying to get you to step up to that responsibility, but you wouldn’t listen.

you had a duty to care for and protect Katherine, even if she were not your child.

“I do to this day believe your letter, that you were appalled by what happened. I cannot imaging that you you started out intending to kill that child that day, because you went to the hospital to get your blood test. if you were thinking of killing that child on that day or any other time there is no way you would have gone to that hospital.

“When this event occurred and you caused her death, you didn’t know what to say or what to do, you made another bad choice.  I don’t think that was clearly thought out, but that’s the process you were going through.

“I have watched you here and listened to the arguments that the parties have set forth and one thing i do believe is that you are not an evil person. I didn’t find anything in your history that you are an aggressive person or a predatory person. I do agree that you have demonstrated tremendous immaturity and thats what led to this situation. For that, it’s a tragedy for Katherine ultimately. It’s a tragedy for Ariel, as it would be for any mother, and its a tragedy for you, and certainly for those who have come to love Ariel and love you, and Haley.

“I recognize that you would love to see the clock turned back.”

Phillips has the option to appeal the sentencing.

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