KINGMAN — Bobby Seacat described his half-brother Brett as “somewhat shaky but sort of just tough” the morning after his sister-in-law died of a gunshot wound and her body was burned beyond recognition in the couple’s Kingman home.
“He had injuries that I saw, and he was telling me what had happened,” Bobby Seacat told the jury Tuesday, recalling his impression of Brett Seacat after seeing him at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center on April 30, 2011 – just hours after 34-year-old Vashti Seacat died.
“Kind of detached, a little bit,” Bobby Seacat continued, speaking of his brother, whom he later described as typically “militaristic, serious (and) businesslike.”
Bobby Seacat, who testified he is a former Kansas Highway Patrol trooper and former law enforcement trainer, was the first of three witnesses called by defense attorneys after the prosecution rested its case late Tuesday morning in the first-degree murder trial of 37-year-old Brett Seacat in Kingman County District Court.
Brett Seacat, a former police instructor and ex-sheriff’s deputy, is accused in the April 2011 shooting death of his wife, Vashti. He also faces aggravated arson and two counts of aggravated child endangerment for allegedly setting fire to the couple’s two-story home while their two sons – then ages 2 and 4 – slept down the hall.
The defense is arguing that Vashti Seacat set the house on fire and then committed suicide.
Earlier Tuesday – the ninth day of testimony in the trial – the jury heard testimony from Zak Carr, a KBI forensic scientist who examined the gun found under Vashti Seacat’s body, and from fire investigator Douglas Monty. Monty told the court he saw no fire damage or singed hair in photographs of the hand and arm Brett Seacat reportedly used to lift his wife’s body from her burning bed.
“Do you observe any injuries?” prosecutor Tom Bath asked Monty while showing a close-up photograph of Seacat’s fingers and palm.
“I see what appears to be an old scar just below the thumb and between the forefinger and the thumb” but no other fire injuries, replied Monty, an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigator based in Wichita.
The defense began presenting its case around 11 a.m. Tuesday, first showing two videos shot of the Seacat house the night of the fire – one shot by a passer-by, the other a dash cam video taken by police – then moving on to question Bobby Seacat about what he observed of his brother the morning Vashti Seacat died.
Bobby Seacat told the court he had “grown close” to Vashti Seacat and – recounting a 90-minute interview he had with investigators the morning she died – said he saw “no indications of marital problems” between Brett and Vashti Seacat. He added that he “never saw a cross word” exchanged between the pair.
“I remember saying that I cannot imagine either scenario taking place,” Bobby Seacat said of his April 30 interview with investigators. “I do recall saying that I can’t imagine Vashti doing that (committing suicide). And I conversely cannot imagine Brett ever hurting her.”
Also in his testimony Tuesday, Bobby Seacat said he told a KBI agent “in passing” that same morning that gunshot residue testing should be conducted on his brother and was surprised that it wasn’t done. He told the court he lives in Andover but drove to Kingman, then the law enforcement training center in Hutchinson, when family called to alert him of Vashti Seacat’s death.
After his son stepped down from the witness stand and sat down in the gallery with spectators and media, Lott Seacat, Bobby and Brett’s father, flashed Bobby, his elder son, an “OK” sign and a slight smile. Lott Seacat then nodded before turning to listen to the remaining court proceedings.
Others testifying Tuesday for the defense were Matt Blank, a private investigator hired by the defense. While combing the Seacats’ home for evidence in June 2011, he testified he found boxes of the hormone HCG as well as syringes and needles.
Avis Obenbaugh, a Kansas City forensic document examiner, told the court the same person who wrote entries in Vashti Seacat’s journal also penned the suicide note found by authorities. Obenbaugh is expected to return to the stand Wednesday for additional questioning.