Major courtroom drama as a father stands trial for the murder of his baby. The verdict is in. It's a case that's rocked Western Michigan, and the country, for the last five agonizing years.

Crime Watch Daily affiliate WXMI reports the verdict is in.

But still, the most important unanswered question: Where is Baby Kate?

Young couple Sean Phillips and Ariel Courtland had one daughter, Hailey, when Ariel got pregnant with their second, Katherine.

Reportedly, Phillips didn't want another child and kept it a secret from his parents. According to Courtland, Phillips first pushed to terminate the pregnancy, then adoption. She didn't want to do either.

It was the day Phillips was supposed to get a paternity test. He had been denying he was Kate's father

While out, the couple had been arguing. Back at home in June 2011, around 1 p.m., Courtland ran inside to get 4-month-old Kate's stroller while Phillips and Kate waited in the car.

When she came back out, Phillips and Kate were gone. Later that afternoon, Ludington Police tracked Sean Phillips down at his parents' house. Kate was nowhere to be found.

During a routine pat-down, cops found her baby clothes wadded up in Phillips' pocket. He was arrested on the spot.

An intense search for Baby Kate was launched. While the community was out looking for Baby Kate, cops were interrogating her father. And he was turning the tables, pointing the finger at her mother. Police weren't buying it.

Sean Phillips was eventually charged with unlawful imprisonment in the abduction of his daughter. Phillips' trial lasted two weeks. On the stand Courtland testified that Phillips did not want a second child.

Also introduced at trial was an un-mailed letter found in Phillips' shirt pocket a few weeks after his arrest. In it he allegedly wrote "I took Kate and gave her to a guy." The guy was to leave her on a doorstep of a couple wanting to adopt. But the guy, the couple and Kate were never found.

After five and a half hours of deliberation, the jury found Phillips guilty. He was sentenced to 10-15 years.

But on the same day Phillips was sentenced, the case was ruled a homicide.

Baby Kate is missing and presumed dead. One year later Sean Phillips is charged with murder.

In a bombshell piece of new evidence, a few months after Phillips was found guilty of unlawful imprisonment, there was a second letter. This one was mailed from Sean Phillips in state prison to Ariel Courtland. Phillips wrote he accidentally killed Kate while yanking her car seat out of the back of the car, claiming he thought Courtland had already taken the girl out of her car seat and into the house.

Then, Phillips wrote, he left Baby Kate in a "peaceful place." A fellow inmate of Phillips' also testified to a conversation they had behind bars, that Kate would not be found.

A few weeks ago, opening statements began in Sean Phillips' murder trial.

Over the weeks, dozens of witnesses were called, including a computer forensic scientist with the Michigan State Police, who testified what was found on Sean Phillips' computer: Some "red flag" searches in the weeks leading up to Kate's disappearance -- searches for fake adoption papers, terminating parental rights, and how to change a name.

Sean Phillips never took the stand in his own defense. Then in a twist which surprised many, Judge Peter Wadel threw out the possibility of a first-degree murder conviction. After more than three weeks of testimony and three days of deliberations, the long-awaited verdict was in: guilty of murder in the second degree.

Phillips, who could get life in prison, had no reaction as he left the courtroom.

Many are now hoping Phillips will one day lead them to Baby Kate.

Comments