IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) - The mother of missing Baby Kate Phillips has filed paperwork to marry the man suspected of killing their infant daughter last year.
Sean Phillips has been imprisoned since he was convicted of unlawful imprisonment of the Ludington child earlier this year. The day Phillips was sentenced to at least 10 years in prison, police named him a suspect in what they now consider to be a homicide investigation.
Ariel Courtland filed paperwork Monday to marry Phillips while he is in an Ionia County prison, Ionia County clerk's records show. The marriage must be confirmed within 30 days for it to be legal.
Courtland says the marriage is not an indication that she is in love with Phillips, but part of her ongoing effort to get answers about what happened to her daughter who disappeared when she was 4 months old and still hasn't been found.
"I need to have answers," Courtland told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday. "I've taken all the steps to try to avoid this."
Those steps included appealing the decision that she says barred her from visiting Phillips in prison because she is considered to be a victim in the case, Courtland said.
"I tried appealing it with a lawyer. I tried appealing it with the state in Lansing -- to the appellate people in Lansing," she said.
After trying "everything I can possibly think of," Courtland acted on the belief that she could visit Phillips if she was a part of his immediate family. She plans to make that happen by marrying him.
"It has nothing to do with Kate," Courtland said. "The prison told us that we were never allowed to see each other or talk... We weren't able to have any contact whatsoever... unless we were immediate family."
"I still have a billion...questions for him."
During the April trial, Phillips' defense attorney claimed Courtland is the person who knows were Baby Kate is -- not Sean Phillips. On the witness stand Courtland was pressed about her involvement in a plan to put Kate up for adoption.
While police have repeatedly said the evidence indicates that Courtland is not a suspect in the baby's disappearance or suspected murder, Courtland says she is aware that some of the public's perception of her is negative.
She now fears that news of her plans to marry Phillips will make that worse.
"Every single thing that I do is still being watched," she said. ""My life is gonna be flipped upside down once again for something that I was almost forced to do."
"I'm sick of being followed. I'm sick of being harassed."
Courtland said she went against the advice of others in making the decision to file for the marriage license. She says Phillips has asked several times to marry her in the past and says that she's discussed her plans with Phillips' parents who she says "understand" why she decided to go through with the marriage.
After checking with prosecutors and investigators, Courtland says she was assured the marriage would not harm the criminal investigation.
The marriage is simply a means to an end, Courtland insists, an opportunity for her to meet with Phillips and try to get the answers to questions so many still have about what happened to Baby Kate.
"A marriage license is a paper... It's not saying that I'm gonna spend the rest of my life with him," she said. "It's saying that I want to marry him for a... month or however long it takes for me to sit down with him and say, 'Hey, what the f--- happened?' That's all it's meant to be. That's it."
In response to an email from 24 Hour News 8, John Cordell of the Michigan Department of Corrections said Phillips has had two visitors since his conviction, but declined to provide any visitor information.
But he did add, "The Warden denied the mother of the child's visitation request (Ariel Courtland) on the grounds of order and security and an inability to positively influence the prisoner's rehabilitation. The warden maintains the authority to deny the visit even if the person is married to the prisoner."
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Police are looking for the suspect in an armed robbery that occurred at a gas station in Plainwell Thursday night.
The rink will be open that day from 3-9 p.m.