Sean Phillips found guilty of 2nd degree murder in Baby Kate case

LUDINGTON, Mich. — Sean Phillips has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his daughter, Katherine Phillips.

Baby Kate was four months old when she went missing in June 2011.  Her body has not been found.  Phillips was already serving a 10-year sentence for kidnapping the girl.

The jury took three days to reach their verdict of second-degree murder.  The judge, Peter Wadel, had thrown out the possibility of reaching a guilty verdict for first-degree premeditated murder, leaving the jury with lesser charges to consider.

A second-degree murder conviction could carry a sentence of life or any term of years in prison, but allows for the possibility of parole. It wasn't immediately clear when Phillips will be sentenced.

The trial lasted three weeks.  Investigators say that justice has been served.

Prosecutors said Phillips, 26, had a turbulent relationship with Kate's mother and didn't want the baby.

Kate "was a financial burden and an impediment to the defendant's lifestyle," Assistant Attorney General Donna Pendergast told jurors.

A key piece of evidence was a note written to Kate's mother, Ariel Courtland, by Phillips. He described how in a fit of anger Kate somehow was thrown from her car seat when he yanked the seat.

He wrote that he "held her for a long time" and that she was in a "peaceful place." He didn't elaborate.

"A peaceful place? Out in the wild, so animals could eat her in the wild?" Pendergast said in court. "Babies don't just end up naked in the woods. Someone has to put them there."

Pendergast said Kate's clothes were found with Phillips. She urged the jury in her closing argument Wednesday to see through the "cover-up."

Defense attorney David Glancy said the clothes, seeds and sand on Phillips' shoes, and a two-hour gap in his cellphone use don't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kate was killed or that there was intent to kill.

"If you believe there was some act that Sean did that raises his culpability, it's at most involuntary manslaughter, a gross negligence," Glancy said.

Phillips did not testify during the trial. He said nothing as he left the courthouse.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a statement saying the conviction followed a joint prosecution and multi-jurisdictional investigation by local, state and federal authorities.

"Today's conviction is a measure of justice for a child who will never grow up and a family that has been ripped apart by her murder," Schuette said.

Phillips currently is serving a 10-year prison sentence for unlawful imprisonment in the child's disappearance.

Watch below for the complete verdict being read in court:

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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  • Joey

    Sean Phillips needs to tell the police where he put the baby after he killed her. There is no point in keeping it a secret now. Do the right thing Sean so Baby Kate can rest in peace and everyone can have closure. Your child has been laying dead in the wilderness for five years now. You have nothing to lose by doing the right thing.

    • Michael

      Nothing to lose but his appeal….

      Many people don’t come clean until after their last chance at an appeal has been exhausted.