Baby Kate Trial: Re-enactments From Day Child Went Missing

By Courtney Perna

WXMI-TV, Grand Rapids, Mich.


April 25–LUDINGTON, Mich. — As Wednesday’s testimony came to an end, Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola asked the judge to allow him to add another surprise witness to his list. Spaniola says an FBI agent may be able to help explain what happened to Baby Kate. Judge Richard Cooper allowed the addition, and the agent is expected to take the stand first thing Thursday morning.

Sean Phillips is accused of causing the disappearance of his, then 4-month-old, daughter Katherine Phillips (Baby Kate) in June 2011; he’s charged with unlawful imprisonment.

In an all day testimony, Mason County Sheriff’s Detective Michael Kenney testified when he searched Phillips’ car on June 30 — the day after Baby Kate went missing — he found a diaper tucked under the passenger seat that “appeared to be recently soiled with urine.”

Kenney also says the cell phone belonging to Ariel Courtland, Baby Kate’s mother, which she said was left in Phillips’ car, has never been found. However, Courtland was able to transfer her service to an old cell phone, and Kenney says phone logs and surveillance video seems to back up Courtland’s story about where she was on the day Baby Kate disappeared.

The prosecution and Kenney showed surveillance video of Phillips driving to the hospital alone (testimony last week confirms he took a paternity test at that time), walking in the hospital lobby, and later driving near the hospital with Courtland and Baby Kate in his car at 1:07 p.m. — seven minutes after their scheduled DNA appointment, but the prosecution says they never made it. According to Kenney’s timeline, Courtland called Phillips from a friend’s home five minutes later, then Courtland called 911 to report the baby missing.

Despite an objection from Phillips’ attorney, Annette Smedley, the prosecution re-played the 911 call made by Courtland, after Phillips allegedly drove away with Baby Kate. During the call, Courtland tells a dispatcher that Phillips was supposed to take her and Kate to the hospital for their DNA tests, and that she went inside the apartment building to get her keys, but when she came out, Phillips and the baby were gone.

Smedley objected several times during Detective Kenney’s testimony, saying much of it was “a waste of time,” because it was details the jury has already heard, and the court recently had a cell phone communications expert on the stand going over similar information — and Kenney is not an expert.

Kenney continued, saying that, according to his timeline, Courtland left a message for Phillips’ mother explaining “Sean kidnapped our daughter.” Then, Phillips’ mother, Kim, left a message for her son.

“Please call me, please. I’m trying to reach you. I want to know what’s going on.”

Kenney says Courtland left another message on Phillips’ phone a couple hours later. “Give me back my child,” she shouted.

Later, during testimony, Kenney played two videos re-enacting his version of what happened the day Baby Kate went missing. During the first video, he and Courtland drove from the hospital to her apartment. The video shows Courtland get out of the car, simulate unbuckling Baby Kate from the backseat, then going into the apartment building to grab a stroller. Then, the car drives away, Courtland comes out of the apartment building, looks around outside, puts the stroller back into the apartment foyer and runs across the complex to her friend’s apartment to call Phillips and 911.

The second video follows Courtland on her bicycle from her home at Birch Lake Apartment to her mother’s house.

Detective Kenney says he and Courtland performed several re-enactments, and the average time coincides with the story Courtland told him, and the cell phone logs he obtained.

“We can account for almost all of (Courtland’s) time,” Kenney says.

On the other hand, he says there is roughly two hours between 1:17 p.m. and 3:18 p.m. where Phillips’ cell phone was not communicating with any cell phone towers. The detective could not say whether or not Phillips had turned off his phone during that time.

Late in the day, Phillps’ attorney cross-examined Detective Kenney. She asked if he could actually see Baby Kate, or her mother, in the car on the surveillance video from the hospital he presented in court. Kenney backtracked and admitted that he could not see either one, or even clearly identify Phillips in the driver’s seat. He says he was drawing a conclusion based on earlier surveillance video and what Courtland had told him.



Posted by Tribune News Services

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