‘Baby Kate’ trial underway in Ludington

LUDINGTON — Charged with “secret confinement,” a 22-year-old Mason County man faces 15 years in prison if found guilty of the disappearance of his 4 1/2-month-old daughter last year.

Investigators say Katherine Shelbie-Elizabeth Phillips, who has become known as “Baby Kate,” went missing on Jun 29, 2011 after last being seen with her father, Sean Phillips.

The case against Sean Phillips, which has drawn statewide media attention, went to court Monday afternoon in Ludington with the selection of a jury. Opening statements by both the prosecution and defense were heard on Tuesday.

The baby’s mother, Ariel Courtland, testified she left the baby in a car with Phillips for a few minutes and when she returned, both Phillips and her daughter were gone. Several hours later police said they found evidence linking Phillips to the baby in his car, including a baby seat, diaper bag and clothing.

Officials say the trial could last 10 to 14 days.

In early August, 2011, Phillips pled not-guilty. One month later, in September, parental kidnapping charges against Phillips were dropped (Michigan parents cannot be charged with that crime).

Phillips remains jailed on $250,000 bond.

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