Michigan Father Charged in Murder of His Own Infant Daughter

10/07/2013 at 10:15 AM EDT

Sean Phillips
Sean Phillips
Michigan Department of Attorney General/AP
A Michigan father has been charged in the murder of his baby daughter, two years after she disappeared.

An open murder charge was filed Friday against Sean Phillips, 23, of Ludington, Mich., in the death of his daughter, Katherine "Baby Kate" Phillips, who was last seen on June 29, 2011, at the age of 4-and-a-half months, according to MLive Muskegon Chronicle via ABC News.

Baby Kate remains missing.

The disappearance of the infant riveted Michigan's west coast, after Phillips allegedly took off with the little girl following an argument with her mother, Ariel Courtland.



The father was arrested the next day at his parents' house, but there was no evidence of Baby Kate, who was last seen wearing a one-piece outfit with black polka dots and black-and-pink flowers. Baby Kate had blue eyes, no hair and was teething when she disappeared in 2011.

According to MLive Muskegon Chronicle, "new evidence" was discovered that supported a murder charge, although Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette declined to state the nature of the evidence.

Volunteers scoured wooded areas of Michigan's northern Mason County this summer, the area where Phillips allegedly dumped Baby Kate, collecting plants and mosses hoping to find samples that matched Phillips' tennis shoes after his arrest.

Phillips allegedly left Baby Kate in a "peaceful place" according to a letter authorities say he wrote to Courtland from prison last year. He also claimed he accidentally killed the baby after violently yanking her infant seat out of his car when he was angry at Courtland.

Phillips was convicted in 2012 of unlawful imprisonment in his daughter's disappearance, and was already serving a 10 to 15 year prison term. Open murder is punishable by up to life in prison.

"This is a tragic case. It just makes you sick," Schuette said in a news conference Friday. "There will be no first birthday party for Baby Kate. No first day of kindergarten. No first Christmas."

Phillips's preliminary examination, a probable-cause hearing, has been set for Oct. 16.

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