KINGMAN — Three friends of Vashti Seacat testified Wednesday that she was optimistic about the future after filing for divorce and had planned a girls night out for the evening of April 30, 2011.
That’s the same day prosecutors allege 37-year-old Brett Seacat shot and killed his wife sometime before 4 a.m., and then set fire to their Kingman home to cover up the crime.
It’s the same day, Brett Seacat’s defense attorneys counter, a depressed Vashti Seacat, 34, set fire to their home at 255 E. Ave. B before committing suicide.
Brett Seacat is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson and two counts of aggravated endangerment of a child. He escaped the blaze with the couple’s two young sons, called 911 and reported to authorities that his wife shot herself and set the house on fire. Because of burns to the body, a coroner could not make a definitive determination on whether the death was a homicide or suicide.
Sarai Tobon, Vashti’s co-worker at Cox Communications in Wichita, and Jaime Arnold and Jill Aaron – who each met Vashti Seacat in college at Wichita State University – all testified she had invited them to the girls night out. They described their friend as hopeful or excited about the future.
Vashti Seacat had filed for divorce a couple of weeks before her death, and Brett Seacat was served with divorce papers only a couple of days before his wife’s body was found after the fire at their home.
“I felt like in 2011, she kind of turned a corner,” Tobon said. “She was hopeful for just a better life for her kids.”
“It was like I was having my best friend back again,” Aaron said. “I finally felt like she was back, the old Vashti that I loved. The happy Vashti.”
Vashti started making plans for the April 30, 2011, girls night out a week before her death, according to Aaron. Tobon testified Vashti Seacat had other plans for the future that included a trip to Mexico with her sister and a concert in Wichita.
“I didn’t see any signs of depression,” Tobon said. “She was saddened by (the divorce), but at the same time she had this optimistic look about her future.”
Arnold identified text messages between her and Vashti Seacat the day before the fire that discussed how Arnold wanted to buy a treadmill from Vashti Seacat, and Arnold planned to get the treadmill on April 30, 2011.
Aaron recalled Vashti Seacat saying that Brett had threatened to run away with their two sons, then ages 2 and 4, but denying he ever physically abused her.
“She was really nervous,” Aaron said. “I knew that she was terrified he would do something.”
Arnold testified Vashti Seacat was at peace with her decision for divorce, thought it “was the best course of action,” and said Brett Seacat was supposed to be out of the house by May 1, 2011.
Tobon, however, identified April 28, 2011, messages she exchanged with Vashti Seacat at work in which she explained to her what a “collaborative divorce” was, in which both parties have legal representation but the process is more mediated. Vashti Seacat had sent messages April 18, 2011, at work saying Brett Seacat was “floored,” “angry” and “sad” over her filing for divorce, and they had agreed to work on the marriage, Tobon testified. She said Brett Seacat told her he would wait for her and take her back when she was ready, Tobon said.
Tobon also testified Vashti Seacat told her she was worried Brett Seacat would take the boys and run away or kill himself. She testified Vashti Seacat mentioned that to her more than once in April 2011.
All three women told jurors Vashti Seacat had been losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle. Defense attorneys questioned Arnold and Aaron about their knowledge of HCG and their discussions about it with Vashti Seacat. Aaron acknowledged Vashti Seacat e-mailed her about losing weight and sent her a link so she could research HCG, which is a hormone produced during pregnancy.