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State High Court Affirms Murder Charge In 'Baby Kate' Case

LUDINGTON (WWJ/AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court has upheld a murder case against a northern Michigan man accused of killing his infant daughter, whose body hasn't been found.

The state's high court Wednesday affirmed rulings by the state appeals court and a Mason County circuit judge.

Katherine Phillips, known as "Baby Kate," disappeared in 2011 in the Ludington area, about 80 miles northwest of Grand Rapids. Her father, Sean Phillips, is charged with murder. The 25-year-old Phillips is serving a 10-year prison sentence for unlawful imprisonment in Kate's disappearance.

County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette are prosecuting the case.

The case originally was dismissed by district judge Peter Wadel, who found insufficient proof Kate was killed. Schuette and Spaniola are appealing a decision Wadel can preside over the case.

Prosecutors say Phillips took the baby from her mother, Ariel 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.

When police went to Phillips' house to talk to him after hearing about Katherine's disappearance, he allegedly told them 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."

While frisking Phillips, officers noticed something in his cargo shorts pocket. It turned out to be 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.

Phillips initially said that Katherine was still alive but later changed his story, saying the baby was accidentally killed and left in a "peaceful place." Extensive searches haven't turned up the girl.

TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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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