'Baby Kate' Missing: Frantic Search for Michigan Infant Believed Kidnapped by Father

PHOTO: Katherine Shelbie-Elizabeth Phillips
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An intense search is underway in Michigan for Katherine Shelbie-Elizabeth Phillips, a baby girl missing since Wednesday afternoon.

Sean Phillips, 21, the four-and-a-half-month-old's father, is suspected of kidnapping his daughter.

"He did not say where she was, and he did not say he knew where she was," Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola said at a news conference this afternoon.

Phillips, a National Guardsman, was set to deploy to Afghanistan, but instead faces a kidnapping charge at home and is being held on a $500,000 bond. If convicted of kidnapping, he would face a potential penalty of life in prison.

Katherine's mother, Ariel Courtland, 19, identified Phillips as the alleged kidnapper. The couple also has an older child.

Courtland and Phillips had run an errand near their home in Ludington, Mich., about 80 miles west of Grand Rapids, Mich., police said. They evidently got into an argument and Phillips allegedly took off with the child.

"I can't eat or sleep," Courtland told a group of reporters outside her home. "I want to know where my daughter is at and that she's safe."

"Baby Kate," as her mother calls her, is teething. She has no hair, blue eyes and was dressed in a white one-piece outfit with black polka dots, and black and pink flowers.

Courtland said she never suspected Phillips would hurt their daughter and does not think he would leave the child with someone else. "I think, if anything, he just left her somewhere," she said.

Now that he's been arrested, she said she feared he would keep the baby's location a secret.

"Nobody's getting anything out of him now," she said.

Phillips was arrested at his parents' home late Wednesday afternoon, but police found no trace of baby Katherine.

Acting on a search warrant, investigators combed that house for evidence this afternoon. They also called in a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to survey nearby Crystal Lake. A team of search dogs are at the ready.

State police and the FBI have also joined the search.

Officials are operating under the assumption Katherine will be found alive, Ludington Police Chief Mark Barnett said, but time is of the essence.

"We are still optimistic she'll be found safely," he said.

"She is small," said Spaniola, the prosecutor, "but it's not like it's January or 20 below zero. Hopefully, we can find her safely if she's been left outside or in the wild."

Police believe Phillips may have taken his daughter to a local Wendy's restaurant sometime between 1 and 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. They are looking for anyone who may have seen one or both of them there.

Authorities have issued an Amber Alert for the baby. Police are urging anyone with information to call (231) 869 5858 or to leave anonymous tips on their Silent Observer Hotline, 888-786-7274, or on the website www.lsotip.com.

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