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Kingman man is charged with murdering wife, arson

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, May 13, 2011, at 6:34 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, March 30, 2012, at 4 p.m.

KINGMAN — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today charged a 35-year-old law enforcement instructor with first-degree murder in the death of his wife.

Brett Seacat also is charged with aggravated arson and two counts of aggravated endangering of a child.

Vashti Seacat's body was found in her Kingman home after her husband and their two sons, ages 2 and 4, made it out in an April 30 fire that heavily damaged the two-story house.

Vashti Seacat, 34, who worked for Cox Communications in Wichita, filed for divorce 16 days before the fire.

Authorities have not said how she died.

Brett Seacat, a former Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy who has been on leave from his law enforcement instructor job, was arrested at about 5 p.m. today and is in custody at the Kingman County Jail, the Attorney General's Office said.

The Seacat children are in police protective custody, the office said.

Vashti Seacat's older brother, Rich Forrest, said he expected the children to be with family tonight.

Forrest said his sister's family is "ecstatic" with the arrest and the charges because to them it means "justice is going to be served."

At the same time, he said, "we realize it won't bring our sister back or our daughter back."

"You're almost laughing and crying at the same time," he said. "I've been on that roller coaster since I found out" about the arrest.

"On behalf of my family," Forrest said, "we feel as bad for his family as we do ours. Brett's family has suffered as much loss as our family has... and my heart goes out to his parents.

"If he's convicted, they've not only lost a daughter-in-law, but they've lost a son," Forrest said.

A man who answered a telephone at Brett Seacat's parents' home declined to comment.

News of the arrest and charges spread quickly in Kingman, said Felicia Ryder, who helped organize a vigil held last week in honor of Vashti Seacat.

She was remembered as a committed human resources employee at Cox Communications and as a selfless mother, who breast-fed her babies and made sure they had organic food.

Ryder said she felt a mix of shock, sadness and relief over how the case has developed.

Still, questions remain, she said. "Why did this happen?"

In court papers filed in Sedgwick County on April 14, Vashti Seacat said she and her husband had become incompatible after seven years of marriage. According to the divorce documents, Brett Seacat was being ordered to pay $1,281 a month in child support and had been ordered to vacate their home within 24 hours of being served with divorce papers.

In an interview with The Eagle last week, Brett Seacat said he remained at the house, that the couple had had "a pretty good weekend" together after she filed the divorce petition and that they were still "doing everything together as a family."

Forrest has said a key question was why his brother-in-law remained in the home when he was supposed to have been gone. Forrest said he spoke with his sister the day before the fire, "and her only comment to me is, 'Brett is really struggling with this, Brett is having an issue with this, Brett is begging me to reconsider.' "

The investigation has involved the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Kingman Police Department, Kingman County Sheriff's Office, Kansas State Fire Marshal's Office and other agencies.

The Attorney General's Office will be prosecuting the case with the Kingman County Attorney's Office.

Ed Pavey, director of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center — where Brett Seacat has provided basic training to police recruits — said Seacat's personal-leave status will be reviewed by the agency's human resources staff Monday.

The center, near Yoder, in Reno County, is the state's headquarters for law enforcement training.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com.

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