For the first time since authorities found Vashti Seacat’s body in the charred remains of her Kingman home in April, prosecutors Tuesday will offer evidence of why they think Brett Seacat, her husband and a former lawman, is guilty of first-degree murder.
Already, in a previous court hearing, the defense has tried to frame the case as an argument over whether the 34-year-old woman’s death was a homicide or suicide.
Prosecutors will present their evidence in a preliminary hearing that began Tuesday morning in a historic courthouse a couple of blocks from where the couple lived with their two small sons.
The courtroom filled up Tuesday morning with family members, mainly relatives of Vashti Seacat’s family. A producer with Dateline NBC is in court observing.
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Brett Seacat, 35, also is charged with aggravated arson and two counts of aggravated child endangerment.
In the April 30 fire, Brett Seacat made it out of the two-story home with the couple’s 2- and 4-year-old sons.
Sixteen days before Vashti Seacat died, she filed for divorce. Brett Seacat had 24 hours to vacate their home after being served with divorce papers, according to court records.
She was a Wichita State University graduate who worked in human resources for Cox Communications. He was a former Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy who went on to teach basic training to recruits at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, near Hutchinson. He resigned from that job after he was charged.
Prosecutors so far have declined to say publicly how Vashti Seacat died. The autopsy report has been sealed.
Brett Seacat’s defense attorney, Roger Falk, has suggested that she committed suicide, a contention that her brother, Rich Forrest, has said is “ludicrous.” She had a good job and was devoted to her sons, her family has said.
According to a court document, neighbors said they heard a gunshot at the Seacat home around 3:30 the morning of the fire. A .44 caliber handgun was recovered from the home.
A preliminary hearing is where prosecutors have the burden of presenting enough evidence to convince a judge that the case should go to trial. The evidence is considered in a light most favorable to the prosecution.
Kingman County District Court Judge Larry Solomon has set aside two days for the preliminary hearing.