LUDINGTON, Mich. (WOOD) - In a calm manner on the day he was arrested, Sean Phillips told detectives he and Ariel Courtland had been fighting the day Baby Kate went missing.
After the fight, which started at Courtland's residence, he said he was trying to drive away when Courtland started putting baby Katherine Phillips in his car. Phillips said she told him she had set up a time to adopt out their 4-month-old daughter at the Department of Human Services building in Grand Rapids.
"We're still arguing" at that point, he said, adding they did a lot of "bouncing back and forth" between "her house, DHS and the hospital."
The adoption drop off didn't end up happening, Phillips said, and after a lot of driving around, the last he saw of Baby Kate was when he dropped Courtland and the baby off at Courtland's apartment.
He told this to police the day he was arrested -- June 29, 2011, the same day Katherine was last seen. His video taped interview was played at his trial for the unlawful imprisonment of the baby.
In the video, he said he started to leave Courtland's apartment that day when she began putting the baby in the back seat to go to the Department of Human Services. He said he went home after dropping Courtland off at her apartment, and that she had Baby Kate with her.
Later, when he returned to his Scottville residence, he said he learned police were looking for him -- Courtland called 911 and said he took the baby -- and he called the detectives.
The last he saw Baby Kate, he said, was around 2 p.m. at Courtland's apartment. He said, "I'm guessing she just has her with a friend."
"My number one concern right now is for Katherine," Mason County Sgt. Tom Postma, the lead detective on the case, told Phillips in the interrogation room.
Postma read him his rights before pressing him further about where baby Kate was.
Early on in the interview, Phillips also said custody issues with their other child, Hailey, are an "ongoing legal battle."
When asked if he had other children. Phillips responded "not that I know of." He said he didn't believe that Katherine was his.
He told police Courtland "likes to play her games" regarding custody of their children, but -- referencing rumors -- said there were "five possible fathers" of Baby Kate.
In the days leading up to the baby's disappearance, he said "we'd just been fighting all week."
When Postma asked him about adopting Kate out, Phillips said he would resist that idea. "I've already been in its life so far," he said.
And when Postma asked him if he knew where Baby Kate was, Phillips said, "This is by far the farthest things have gone," in a reference to Ariel's behavior. When pressed further, he said he did not know where Katherine was.
Prosecutors paused the interview recording after Postma accused Phillips of taking Baby Kate after becoming frustrated. "Where is Katherine?" Postma asked pointedly before the tape was paused.
Phillips admitted he didn't want Katherine to be his baby, that he has enough responsibilities.
A computer forensics expert testified "Michigan paternity swab test and cost" was one of the items searched on computers and a cell phone related to the Sean Phillips-Baby Kate case.
Prosecutor Paul Spaniola called expert Gerald McCarthy as the first witness in the second week of the trial.
"This is the type of case that we stop what we're doing," McCarthy said on the stand. He examined two desktop computers and a micro SD card, commonly found in cell phones. The searches, he said, were done on a computer mostly under the username "Sean."
He performed keyword searches, and among the other items searched were "Michigan.gov adoption papers," http://dnacenter.com, "Hide my IP IE," "New Mexico adoption form," "New Mexico order terminating rights parent."
Also, the Newmexico.gov site was visited, and asked a question on "Yahoo answers": "Can a father relinquish his rights in NM to avoid paying child support?"
"Fake adoption papers," "name change," "couples adopting" and "US citizenship requirements" were also searched on one of the desktops.
Additionally, parentprofiles.com was searched on the HP desktop, McCarthy testified. That was the website included in a note found in Phillips clothes days after he was arrested.
The other computer's username is "Ariel," he said.
On that computer, the terms "Hopeful adoptive parents," "parents looking to adopt," "unplanned pregnancy" were all searched.
Michigan State Police trooper Eric Young then took the stand and testified he contacted two Michigan couples that had been researched on Phillips' computer. Young said he found no email contact between those couples and Phillips, nor any evidence that Baby Kate was in either home.
Phillips faces up to 15 years in prison for unlawful imprisonment.
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