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Mich. dad's murder charge dismissed in missing baby case

Sean Phillips, left, father of Katherine Phillips, right

CBS Detroit

LUDINGTON, Mich. - A judge has dismissed a murder charge against a Michigan man accused of killing his missing daughter, who was 4 months old when she disappeared.

Mason County District Judge Peter Wadel in Ludington threw out the open murder charge Monday against 24-year-old Sean Phillips. Katherine Phillips disappeared in 2011 in the Ludington area, about 80 miles northwest of Grand Rapids.

CBS Detroit reports Phillips already is serving 10 to 15 years in prison for unlawful imprisonment for failing to return the girl widely known as "Baby Kate" to her mother, Ariel Courtland.

The girl's body remains missing, and the judge says there isn't enough evidence to prove she's dead.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and county Prosecutor Paul Spaniola say they'll appeal the decision. Schuette says "Baby Kate deserves full justice."

Wadel presided over a probable cause hearing for the father that ended July 31.

Courtland has said Phillips told her that the child is still alive, but extensive searches have shown no sign of her, according to CBS Detroit. Prosecutors said the suspect 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.

CBS Detroit reports Phillips was arrested shortly after the baby went missing in 2011 after police found the little girl's baby clothing in his shorts pocket, according to court documents.