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Closing arguments Wednesday in ‘Baby Kate’ murder trial

Sean Phillips accused of murdering ‘Baby Kate’ in 2011

Sean Phillips and Katherine Phillips
Sean Phillips (left) appears in court Oct. 4, 2016 during his trial in the murder of his 4-month-old daughter, Katherine Phillips (right).

LUDINGTON, Mich. (WOOD) — Closing arguments are underway in the Sean Phillips murder trial after which the jury will begin deliberations.

Four-month-old Katherine, who became known as Baby Kate after she disappeared in 2011, was last seen alive with her father in Ludington. Since her remains have not been found, much of the case against Phillips is based on circumstantial evidence, including a letter he allegedly wrote in prison in which he confessed that he pulled Kate’s car seat from his car and that she was thrown from it.

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In court Tuesday, Judge Peter Wadel acquitted Phillips of first-degree murder. As a result, the jury will only be able to consider second-degree murder which means he will not face mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“The mere fact that a lot of young people have an unwanted pregnancy, an unplanned pregnancy and they consider things like abortion or adoption do show, do not rise to the level of planning for or intending to kill the baby,” Wadel said.

Philips’ defense attorney is also fighting to give the jury the option of manslaughter which has a maximum sentence of 15 years.

In eight days of testimony, jurors heard from Kate’s mother, Ariel Courtland; Phillips’ mother, Kim Phillips; officers who spoke with Phillips on the day Kate disappeared; Phillips’ neighbors; experts in DNA, cellphones and computers; and a man who was in prison with Phillips and said he admitted to getting rid of Kate.

Regardless of what the jury decides in this trial, Phillips will remains behind bars: he was convicted of unlawful imprisonment in Kate’s case in 2012 and sentenced to between 10 and 15 years prison.

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