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Sean Phillips murder trial focuses on ‘confession letter’

Sean Phillips standing trial for murder of 4-month-old daughter ‘Baby Kate’

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) — Prosecutors are turning their focus to the note and letter allegedly written by Sean Phillips in his trial for the murder of his 4-month-old daughter.

Katherine Phillips, dubbedBaby Kate,” was last seen alive with Sean Phillips in June 2011.

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Thursday, the jury viewed a copy of the note found in Phillips’ pocket while he was in the Mason County jail a month after Kate’s disappearance,

Prosecutors also presented a two-page letter they say Sean Phillips wrote to Kate’s mother in 2012.  An Ionia prison official called it a confession letter.  In it, Phillips allegedly told Ariel Courtland he  threw Kate’s car seat while she was still in it and then left her body in a “peaceful place.”

The jail letter to Courtland is a key piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case, which is based largely on circumstantial evidence. Kate’s remains have not been found. But the attorney leading the prosecution, Assistant State Attorney General Donna Pendergast, is an expert in getting convictions in no-body murder cases.

Wednesday, prosecutors again tried to have Judge Peter Wadel removed from the case, saying he had allegedly told a retired judge in private that circumstantial cases, like the Phillips case, are fundamentally flawed. Wadel refused to recuse himself, saying he never talked to Thomas about the case.

Since testimony began one week ago, jurors have heard from Kate’s mother, Ariel Courtland; Phillips’ mother, Kim Phillips; officers who spoke with Phillips on the day Kate disappeared; and Phillips’ neighbors. The trial is slated to last three weeks.

Phillips, 26, is already serving a prison sentence for unlawful imprisonment in Kate’s case.

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