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Judge To Decide If Dad Will Stand Trial For Murder In Missing Baby's Death

LUDINGTON (WWJ/AP) - A western Michigan man will have to wait two weeks to find out if he'll stand trial in the murder of his baby daughter, whose body has never been found.

A probable cause hearing for 24-year-old Sean Phillips wrapped up Thursday in district court in Ludington. Judge Peter Wadel said he'll weigh the testimony before making his decision on whether to try Phillips on an open murder charge.

Phillips' daughter Katherine, a 4-month-old widely known as "Baby Kate," disappeared in June 2011 in the Ludington area, about 80 miles northwest of Grand Rapids.

Wadel in April called a time-out in the hearing to allow defense experts to examine a letter authorities say links Sean Phillips to his daughter's disappearance. Phillips' handwritten letter to the girl's mother allegedly says the baby was accidentally killed and left in a "peaceful place."

A copy of the letter was obtained by WOOD-TV8. Click here to read the letter (.pdf format)

Phillips has been imprisoned since 2012, serving a 10 to 15 year sentence after being convicted of unlawful imprisonment for failing to return Katherine to her mother, Ariel Courtland.

Courtland has said Phillips told her that Katherine is still alive, but extensive searches haven't turned up the girl. Investigators have also tried to find the girl's body by examining seeds and other plant material on Phillips' shoes.

Prosecutors say Phillips took the baby from Courtland because he feared a court-ordered paternity test would show he was the father. Courtland said Phillips wanted to put Katherine up for adoption, but she refused.

According to court testimony, officers from the Mason County Sheriff's Department went to Phillips' house on June 29, 2011 to talk to him after hearing about Katherine's disappearance. Phillips allegedly told officers that the baby was with her mother, repeating that response three times.

When police asked whether Phillips was telling the whole truth, officers said he answered, "You're right. I'm not telling you the whole truth." That's when officers noticed something was in Phillips' cargo shorts pocket and did a pat down, finding baby clothes wadded up in a ball, according to court documents.

When one of the officers asked Phillips what it was, he answered, "Her clothes." Officers immediately put Phillips in handcuffs.

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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