Attorneys have completed their questioning of potential jurors and are planning to pick a jury Wednesday afternoon in the trial of a former Kansas police instructor charged with killing his wife and setting fire to their home.
After a third panel of potential jurors was questioned Tuesday morning, seven were excused from sitting on the jury for Brett T. Seacat, 37, who is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated arson in the April 30, 2011, death of his wife, 34-year-old Vashti Seacat.
She was found dead from a gunshot wound to the neck after a fire at the couple’s Kingman home, about two weeks after she filed for divorce.
About 70 potential jurors have been questioned since Monday, and now, 48 Kingman County residents have been qualified to sit on the jury, which will include 12 primary jurors and three alternates.
Chief Judge Larry Solomon said attorneys would pick the jury from the pool of 48 people Wednesday afternoon. He’s told potential jurors the trial will last at least two weeks.
Seacat, a former Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy, was an instructor at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in Reno County when his wife’s body was found. He escaped the blaze with their two sons, then ages 2 and 4, and is also charged with two counts of aggravated endangerment of a child.
Authorities previously testified in Seacat’s November 2011 preliminary hearing that a trail of gasoline was found in the second story of the Seacats’ Kingman home leading to the bedroom where Vashti Seacat’s body was found. A melted gas can was found by her feet, and a .44-caliber gun was found under her body. A journal found in her car contained a suicide note that a forensic analysis indicated was simulated.
Last month, Assistant Kansas Attorney General Amy Hanley said the path of the bullet was a “slightly front-to-back, downward angle,” supporting the state’s theory that Brett Seacat “shot that gun, standing over her.” Hanley also suggested Vashti Seacat was asleep at the time.
Seacat’s attorneys counter Vashti’s death was a suicide. Burns to her body prevented a coroner from making a definitive determination on whether it was a homicide or suicide.
Seacat’s attorneys say he will testify that his wife previously attempted suicide and previously set fires, while prosecutors contend there is no evidence of those claims except for his testimony.