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Psychotherapist, Brett Seacat had unusual phone conversation hours after wife’s death, woman testifies

  • The Hutchinson News
  • Published Monday, June 3, 2013, at 7:08 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, June 11, 2013, at 7:42 a.m.

— A psychotherapist testified Monday that she had a “very unusual” phone conversation with former Kansas police instructor Brett Seacat about five hours after his wife, Vashti, was found shot to death on April 30, 2011, in their Kingman home following a fire.

“He said, ‘I killed her. Vashti is dead, and it’s my fault,’ ” testified Connie Suderman, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker in Wichita.

Brett Seacat, who was an instructor at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center at the time of his wife’s death, said he had told his wife he was going to take their children away, Suderman said. Brett Seacat said Vashti Seacat set the house on fire and shot herself while he carried their two sons, then ages 2 and 4, out of their home to safety, according to Suderman.

“He told me that he knew she was dead because of the pool of blood,” Suderman testified.

She said she called Brett Seacat at about 9:30 a.m. on April 30, 2011, after he already had called her office and asked for advice on how to tell his children their mother had committed suicide. Suderman said Seacat was “quite calm” when she spoke with him over the phone, and she felt “the entire situation was very unusual” because he had contacted her so quickly after his wife’s death.

“He just told me matter-of-factly what was happening,” Suderman recalled.

Suderman’s testimony comes during the third week of trial for Seacat, 37, who is charged with first-degree murder in his wife’s death. He’s accused of fatally shooting her while she was sleeping sometime before 4 a.m. on April 30, 2011, and setting fire to their Kingman home to cover up the crime. He also is charged with aggravated arson and two counts of aggravated endangering a child.

Seacat’s attorneys contend, however, that a depressed Vashti Seacat set fire to the home before committing suicide. She died from a gunshot wound toward the back of her neck, below her ear, but burns to her body prevented a coroner from making a definitive determination on whether the death was a homicide or a suicide.

Under questioning from John Val Wachtel, Seacat’s attorney, Suderman acknowledged she had previously diagnosed Vashti Seacat with depression after she started counseling her in November 2010. She said she found evidence of a “depressive episode” or that Vashti had been depressed in the past, but it “wasn’t consistent in her life.”

When she first started meeting with the couple, Vashti Seacat expressed feelings of loneliness and isolation, and Suderman described the counseling as a “last-ditch effort” for Vashti Seacat prior to divorce “to see whether or not things could change within the marriage.”

Vashti Seacat’s outlook on life changed markedly, however, after she started exercising, eating healthy and re-establishing a social life, according to Suderman.

“She told me she was feeling better than she had in years,” Suderman said of Vashti Seacat.

Vashti Seacat, in the weeks before her death, was confident in pursuing the divorce, Suderman said. She filed for divorce just two weeks before her death, and Brett Seacat was served with divorce papers a few days before his wife was found dead.

In an individual session with Brett Seacat on April 14, 2011, he said if Vashti Seacat divorced him, she was divorcing the entire Seacat family, even their children, and he would take their two boys and leave the country, Suderman recalled.

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