Mother of Baby Kate testifies in hearing for murder trial
The mother of Katherine Phillips, the four-month-old child who disappeared in June of 2011, testified Thursday in a preliminary hearing for the murder trial of Sean Phillips, the child's father.
Katherine, who became known nationally as "Baby Kate", disappeared in June 2011 while in the care of her father, Sean Phillips.
Phillips is currently serving time in prison for an unlawful imprisonment conviction in April 2012 in connection to his daughter's disappearance. A year later, Phillips was charged with open murder in the case.
In court Thursday, the child's mother, Ariel Courtland, testified in a probable cause hearing to determine if the evidence presents a cause to continue to trial.
Courtland testified that there were weekly arguments with Phillips about her pregnancy and that he wanted an abortion. Courtland said she considered the idea but could never bring herself to have the procedure done. After Baby Kate was born, Courtland said frequent arguments continued, this time focusing on the idea of putting the child up for adoption.
Through tears,Courtland testified that Phillips drove off with the child on June 29, 2011, the day that she disappeared. Courtland said she left Baby Kate with Phillips in his car and her apartment to get a stroller from inside. She said that when she came back outside, she saw that Phillips, his car, and the baby were gone.
Courtland said she spent time driving around with a friend searching for Phillips and calling him using her friends phone because her cell phone was inside of Phillips' car. She also called 911 and Phillips' parents to alert them to the situation. A Ludington Police Officer arrived on scene to take down Ariel's information.
Courtland eventually went to her mother's home, where the officer later returned with news that they had located Phillips, but not Baby Kate.
"He said that they had located Sean and I asked...I asked where Kate was at and if I could come get her," said Courtland. "And he said, "no," because Kate wasn't there. And they didn't know where she was at. They said she was gone."
In 2012, a letter was obtained, believed to be written by Phillips to Courtland and claimed he "accidentally" killed Baby Kate and had left her in a "peaceful place."READ: Letter states Baby Kate is dead
Since the letter surfaced, investigators have been working, along with a team of botanists, to find any trace of the baby. June marks three years since she disappeared.
Several letters between Courtland and Phillips were entered into evidence on Thursday, including one from Courtland. In it she begged Phillips to tell her what happened to their baby.
The state asked Courtland to read one page of the letter:
"I have to know what happened that day," read Courtland. "The truth. Stop with the," Ariel had her last," bullcrap. We know that's not true. You had her last. And I know that you killed her. The evidence does not support you giving her to anyone. You would have said something by now if you had. I know for a fact it was an accident and that you are truly sorry for it. I know you're not a cold blooded killer. You are a good person who just did something stupid. Do you think that if you tell me the truth that I won't love you anymore? Or that I'll stop writing you? Or not marry you? That would never happen. I love you."
Courtland testified that Phillips eventually responded with a letter. That letter was entered into evidence but it is yet to be confirmed if it is from Phillips because there is no signature on it. Courtland said the contents of it shocked both her and Phillips' parents. According to Courtland, Phillips had asked that she show his parents the letter. The letter was not read out loud in court.
Also entered into evidence, Baby Kate's car seat, diaper bag, and the clothes that she was wearing the day of her disappearance. Courtland held back tears as she took the pink, white, and floral outfit out of the evidence bag.
Law enforcement is also expected to testify and present evidence. The hearing will continue on Friday at 9 a.m..