Vashti Seacat murder: Ex-police officer found guilty of wife's murder after she was found shot dead in burning home
- Brett Seacat murdered wife Vashti, the mother of his two sons, 16 days after she filed for divorce in 2011
- Her charred body was found next to a pistol at their Kansas home which had been set on fire
- Seacat due to be sentenced on August 5 with the state seeking 50 years
By Louise Boyle
PUBLISHED: 17:34 EST, 11 June 2013 | UPDATED: 17:45 EST, 11 June 2013
A former police officer has been found guilty today of his wife's murder after she was found shot dead in their burning home.
Brett Seacat, 37, was accused of killing 34-year-old Vashti Seacat, 16 days after she filed for divorce in 2011.
Her charred body was found next to a melted gas container on the remains of her bed, along with a .44-caliber pistol at their home in Kansas.
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Guilty verdict: Brett Seacat, pictured in court today, was found guilty of murdering his wife Vashti in 2011 at their Kansas home
A Kingman County jury on Tuesday found Seacat guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated arson and two counts of aggravated endangering a child.
Seacat showed little emotion in court as he stood while the judge read the verdict after less than a day of deliberations by the jury.
Victim: Vashti Seacat was found dead in a fire at her home in 2011, shortly after she filed for divorce from her husband
In closing arguments on Monday, prosecutors portrayed Brett Seacat as a manipulative man who used his law enforcement background to make it look like his wife shot herself.
The defense tried to cast reasonable doubt by repeatedly pointing out that even an experienced coroner couldn't decide whether the death was suicide or homicide.
Seacat is a former Sedgwick County deputy who was an instructor at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center when his wife's body was found.
He and the couple's two sons, aged two and four, escaped from the fire.
Prosecutors said Seacat shot his wife, then set their home on fire to cover it up.
He had claimed that his wife was depressed and set fire to their family home in Kingman before shooting herself.
Seacat is due to be sentenced on August 5 with the state seeking 50 years in prisoner for the former deputy.
After escaping the blaze with the couple’s two children in 2011, Seacat called 911 and said his wife had committed suicide.
Because of burns to the body, a
coroner could not determine whether the gunshot was self-inflicted.
Posecutors alleged that Seacat killed his wife at about 4am and then set fire to their home to hide the evidence.
The mother-of-two had filed for divorce a couple of weeks before her death.
Her husband had been served
with divorce papers in the days before the fire.
Mrs Seacat had started making plans with her friends a week before her death on April 30, 2011.
Relief: Julie Hostetler, mother of Vashti Seacat, hugs another family member after the guilty verdict was read
Justice served: Sydney Woodside, niece of Vashti Seacat, and her uncle Rich Forrest, brother of Vashti Seacat, hug in court on Tuesday
College friend Sarai Tobon said that Vashti had also made plans to go to a concert in Wichita and to take a trip to Mexico with her sister.
'I didn’t see any signs of depression,' Ms Tobon said. 'She was saddened by [the divorce], but at the same time she had this optimistic look about her future.'
Friend Jaime Arnold told the court during the trial about text messages sent between her and Mrs Seacat the day before the fire, in which they discussed Ms Arnold buying a treadmill from her, which she was due to collect on the day of the fire.
Another friend Jill Aaron told the court Mrs Seacat had said her husband threatened to run
away with their sons but denied that he ever
physically abused her.
Trial: KBI agent Brian Carroll shows the court a photo of the bedroom Vashti Seacat's body was found
'She was really nervous,' Ms Aaron said. 'I knew that she was terrified he would do something.'
The court was also told by Ms Arnold that Brett Seacat was supposed to be out of the house by May 1, 2011.
text messages sent to Ms Tobon on April 28, Mrs Seacat said her husband
was 'floored', 'angry' and 'sad' about the divorce and had agreed to
work on their marriage.
The messages from Mrs Seacat allegedly said her husband had told her he would wait for her and take her back when she was ready.
But Ms Tobon also testified that on more than one occasion in April 2011, Mrs Seacat had said she was worried her husband would take the boys and run away or kill himself.
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