A missing Michigan baby – known as Baby Kate – is back in the news as a western Michigan man was formally charged Friday with killing his infant daughter, who disappeared more than two years ago. Although investigators are still searching for the body of four-year-old Katherine Phillips, prosecutors said an open murder count has been filed against 23-year-old Sean Phillips, reports Fox News on Oct. 4.
The murder charge indictment “moves us one step closer to securing justice for Baby Kate,” said Michigan state Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Phillips has already been serving time in jail, convicted last year of unlawful imprisonment in the 2011 disappearance of his daughter. Prosecutors said Phillips took Kate from her mother, Ariel Courtland, because he feared a court-ordered paternity test would prove he was the father. Baby Kate was last seen in a car seat in the back of Phillips vehicle in the Ludington area. Phillips was sentenced to 15 years in prison, which he is currently in the process of appealing.
Schuette said at a news conference Friday that “new evidence has been discovered which supports a murder charge in this case,” but declined to offer any details.
Investigators have targeted Phillips as the primary suspect since Baby Kate disappeared, but have not had enough evidence to bring about a murder charge until now. At the time of the kidnapping, police searched Phillip’s car and Baby Kate’s car seat. At the time of his arrest, Phillips himself had the clothes Kate was wearing – balled up and inside out – shoved in his pockets.
Investigators have now said that unusual seeds found on the bottom of Phillip’s shoes could be crucial to the location of a body. Phillips has refused to name a location, saying he is innocent of slaying his daughter.
Authorities are “looking for specific plants, especially particular types of moss and grass-like sedges, that rarely grow near each other but whose traces were found on the shoes or clothing” Phillips, reports Michigan Live.
“This continuing investigation has included review of biological evidence, site visits, and the enlistment of experts from all over the world who are preeminent in their fields,” Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola said.
Courtland presented a letter to investigators, allegedly penned by Phillips to her while he was in prison last year, which said Baby Kate is in a “peaceful place.”