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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Suspect in Kingman death had history of using force as a deputy

BY TIM POTTER
The Wichita Eagle

In the years before Brett Seacat was charged with murdering his wife, he received both criticism and praise for his use of force while a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy.

Seacat was charged May 13 with murdering his wife, Vashti, and setting their Kingman house on fire.

The recently filed first-degree murder charge against Seacat isn't the first time the law enforcement trainer has been accused of killing someone.

A 2002 lawsuit, alleging excessive force, claimed that Seacat — while working as a sheriff's deputy — slammed 50-year-old John Mires against a concrete wall near the booking desk at the Sedgwick County Jail, causing skull fractures and brain damage. Mires, who was in jail after a DUI arrest, died six days later.

Gary Steed, sheriff at the time, was quoted as saying that investigations by the District Attorney's Office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation had cleared Seacat.

In a 2008 Eagle article, Ron Mires, John Mires' older brother, said he allowed his lawsuit against the county to be dismissed after the family spent about $13,000 on it and didn't have the money to keep pursuing it.

Ron Mires said he told sheriff's officials in 2005 after the suit was dismissed that he still thought Seacat was a "loose cannon."

When Mires learned of Seacat's arrest a little over a week ago, he said, "I about fell over."

"If I had a done something to stop Brett Seacat when I had an opportunity to do so, she would still be alive," Mires said.

Authorities have not said how Vashti Seacat died. Her body was found in her house after an early-morning fire April 30.

Brett Seacat and the couple's 2- and 4-year-old sons made it out of the house. He also has been charged with aggravated arson and two counts of aggravated endangerment of a child.

Sixteen days before the fire, Vashti Seacat, who worked in human relations for Cox Communications in Wichita, filed for divorce. He had been ordered to vacate the house and pay child support.

He remains in jail under a $1 million bond. Before his arrest, he was a basic training instructor at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center. He resigned Thursday after working at the center since around 2008.

While a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy, Seacat also received praise for use of force.

In 2006, Seacat and another deputy received the sheriff's bronze medal of meritorious conduct for a courtroom incident in which they subdued a defendant who shouted and rose from his chair and continued to resist as they tried to remove him from the courtroom, according to a sheriff's report.

In a recent interview, after the fire and before Seacat was charged, current Sedgwick County Sheriff Robert Hinshaw described Seacat as a "very competent deputy that did his job."

Seacat, who grew up in Kingman and became an Eagle Scout, comes from a family of lawmen. His father was a state trooper.

In an interview before his arrest, Seacat said he met his wife when they were students at rival high schools. Both obtained degrees from Wichita State University.

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

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