First day of preliminary examination completed in Sean Phillips' charge of murder of his daughter Katherine 'Baby Kate' Phillips - Ludington Daily News: News

First day of preliminary examination completed in Sean Phillips' charge of murder of his daughter Katherine 'Baby Kate' Phillips

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Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 8:54 am

4:30 p.m. update: Kim Phillips is still on the stand. Pendergast is asking her if she recalls various calls and conversations from June 29-30, 2011. The pace has been painstaking, as Phillips replied several times she didn't recall and then was supplied transcripts of investigative subpoena hearings, Sean's previous trial, voicemail records and other paperwork. Pendergast told Wadel she hopes to demonstrate that Sean's fear of his parents' reaction to him having a second child with Ariel Courtland was part of his motive.

3:30 p.m. update: Kim Phillips, Sean's mother, is on the stand. Pendergast is questioning her about her and her husband's reactions to finding out that Kate may have been their granddaughter in the days after Kate's disappearance.

3:15 update: Former Ludington Police Officer Chad Skiba is on the stand talking about responding to a call from Ariel Courtland at 1:14 p.m. on the day that Katherine Phillips disappeared. Anna Appledorn of the Department of Human Services testified earlier that she encountered Courtland in her office that day. She said Courtland was frantic and asked if anyone had dropped off her child.

3 p.m. update Mason County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Spaniola is questioning Alaina Campbell, who let Courtland use her phone after Phillips disappeared with Kate on June 29, 2011. Pendergast questioned Deputy Ken Baum, who served Phillips with paternity papers in May 2011. Baum said Phillips became upset when presented with the papers and did not want to pay the associated fees. Baum, then a still-active Sgt. Major in the U.S. Marine Corps said he reminded Phillips of his military obligation to take care of dependents. Phillips was in the National Guard at the time and expected to ship out soon.

2:40 p.m. Wadel has just told Pendergast he was not going to let her go through the letter line by line in her questioning and asked her where she was going with her line of questioning. Pendergast said she hoped to rebut information that Glancy got from Courtland in questioning about the letter that stated it was an accident. She said the rest of the letter indicates it was anything but an accident. Wadel said he admitted the letter and he is the audience for this hearing and she should move on.

"OK, you're the court," she replied.

"I am," Wadel said.

2:20 p.m. Courtland is being cross-examined again by Pendergast on redirect. Glancy's questions focused on Sean never displaying any propensity for violence and never raising his voice even in arguments with Courtland. Pendergast is asking Courtland if she agrees that Sean admitted to ripping the car seat out of the car as hard as he could in the letter he wrote her from the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia. Courtland asked for a copy of the letter after a series of questions about it. the court is in a 15-minute recess so Courtland can review the letter.

1:10 p.m. update: Defense attorney David Glancy is expected to begin cross-examination of Ariel Courtland after the lunch break.

Noon update: The court is in recess until 1:15. Pendergast said she had no further questions for Ariel after finishing with introducing Kate's clothing that she was wearing on the day she disappeared. Courtland's eyes welled up with tears as she removed the clothing from an evidence bag and tears ran down her cheek as she described the white tank top with pink and black flowers and the pink bottoms of the outfit.

11:20 a.m. Pendergast is introducing a six-page letter into evidence. The letter, from Ariel to Sean, asks questions about what happened to Kate. Ariel is sniffling after explaining the frantic events following Sean driving off with Kate on June 29, 2011. The letter was answered by the "peaceful place" letter received from Sean when he was at the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia. Wadel and Pendergast exchanged differing ideas on when the "peaceful place" letter should be read into the record. Wadel asked Pendergast to do it, but she said that Det. Sgt. Tom Posma would do that after more supporting evidence was introduced.

10:30 a.m. update: Ariel has testified about her disagreements with Sean over whether Kate should be adopted. She testified that she strapped Kate's carseat into Sean's car on June 29, 2011, the day she went missing. Her eyes welled up with tears as she told the court that she was expecting Sean to drive them to Memorial Medical Center so Ariel and Kate could have DNA tests done. Judge Wadel has called a 15-minute break.

10 a.m. update: Ariel has testified, under questioning by Donna Pendergast, about her relationship with Sean, which started when she was 14, up through the Feb. 2011 birth of Kate.

9:30 a.m update: Ariel Courtland is on the stand.

Judge Pete Wadel has called the courtroom to order. He instructed the television and radio media not to use any recordings of attorney-client conversations or sidebars. Assistant Attorney General Donna Pendergast is telling Wadel about 13 stipulations between the attorneys before the prelim begins. The stipulations are facts that both sides agree are accurate, including that the timestamps on the Wendy's Ludington cash register and the Memorial Medical Center security cameras are accurate. Both sides also concede that the results of DNA tests from a plastic bottle nipple used by Baby Kate show that her parents are Ariel Courtland and Sean Phillips.

9:25 a.m. update: Phillips has entered the courtroom.

9:15 a.m. update: Defense team members David Glancy, John Smietanka and investigator Gene Debbaudt are meeting with defendant Sean Phillips in the jury room.

Who is Rushaun DeMario Burton and what, if anything, does he know about Baby Kate?

That’s the question that may be answered today as Sean Phillips has a preliminary examination in 79th District Court.

Burton is one of 30 people served either a writ or a subpoena to be available for today’s proceedings. Because Burton is a resident of the Macomb Correctional Facility, he was served a writ of habeas corpus.

Burton is serving 2-6 years in prison after a June 2011, conviction for delivery of a controlled substance/manufacture of marijuana.

Phillips is currently serving a 10-15 year sentence on unlawful imprisonment of Kate at the Carson City Correctional Facility, was charged with murder by the Michigan Attorney General’s office and Mason County Prosecuting Attorney’s office on Nov. 4. The people of the State of Michigan will be represented by both Mason County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Spaniola and Assistant Attorney General Donna Pendergast of the criminal division of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office at the prelim and subsequent proceedings. Phillips will be represented by David Glancy and advisory council John Smietanka, a former U.S. District Attorney.

Burton, Inspector Craig Smith, currently of the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia, and David Hayhurst of the Michigan State Police’s Grand Rapids crime lab are the only people from out of the area called to today’s prelim.

Others served subpoenas, in the order they appear in the district court file, are:

Ellen Montgomery of Ludington

Chief Deputy Steve Hansen of the Mason County Sheriff’s Office

Samantha Waters of Ludington

Kristine Kokx of Mason-Oceana 911

Det. Mike Kenney of the Mason County Sheriff’s Office

Bud Parrish of Ludington

Fawn Nelson of Scottville

Sue Maltbie of the Ludington Police Department

Jason Bahr of Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital

Anna Appledorn of the Michigan Department of Human Services

Alexis Sandretto of Scottville

Ben Schiller of Scottville

Christopher Merriman of Scottville

Ken Wilson of Ludington

Sgt. Matt McMellen of the Ludington Police Department

Tony Kuster of the Ludington Police Department

Kim Phillips of Scottville

Larry Phillips of Scottville

Dan Ruba of Ludington

Det. J.B. Wells of the Ludington Police Department

April Lange of Ludington, Baby Kate’s grandmother

Alaina Campbell of Ludington

Sgt. David Maltbie of the Ludington Police Department

Ariel Courtland of Ludington, Baby Kate’s mother

Det. Sgt. Tom Posma of the Mason County Sheriff’s Office

** See a related gallery of photos from court attached to this story. ** 

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