Joy Trotnic told Kingman County jurors she was good friends with her co-worker, Vashti Seacat, and after she learned about her death on April 30, 2011, she quickly recalled an alarming comment Vashti Seacat had made about her husband just a couple of weeks before her death.
“She said, ‘Do you think Brett would burn the house down with me in it?’ ” Trotnic said, adding that she was “taken aback” by her friend’s odd question. “I said, ‘What? … Not with the kids at home.’ ”
Trotnic said she was busy at work at the time, and Vashti Seacat said “OK” and left her office.
Brett Seacat, charged with first-degree murder in his wife’s death, is 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 escaped the blaze with the couple’s two sons, then ages 2 and 4, and also is charged with aggravated arson and two counts of aggravated endangering a child.
Trotnic, a benefits director at Cox Communications in Wichita, testified she knew Vashti Seacat had filed for divorce about two weeks before her death, and that Brett Seacat was served with divorce papers in the days before his wife’s death. But Trotnic described Vashti Seacat as happy and said she didn’t think she was depressed. Vashti Seacat was in good spirits when they went out to lunch the day before she died.
“She had a lot of friends,” Trotnic said of Vashti Seacat, who was a human resources director. “Everyone she worked with really liked her.”
Trotnic said she and her daughters would sometimes babysit the Seacats’ two sons, and the two families had spent some time together in the past.
“The sun would rise and shine on the boys — that was her entire life,” Trotnic recalled. “If you ever asked (Vashti) what was going on in her life, it was always the boys.”
Jurors also heard Friday from Mandy Kupper, who worked at Treehouse Learning Center in Wichita where the Seacat boys went to day care.
According to Kupper, Brett Seacat called the morning of May 2, 2011, and said he was sure she probably saw what happened on TV, and he wanted to come in and “tell you what really happened before you start hearing rumors.”
Kupper said that when Brett Seacat arrived, he wanted to meet with her and the boys’ two teachers, as well.
Seacat then explained Vashti Seacat had died, “and there was a fire and that she had killed herself,” Kupper testified. Seacat detailed for the three day-care workers how he and his wife had been going to counseling, that he’d just been served with divorce papers, and that he was supposed to be out of their house but Vashti Seacat let him stay.
“He said he’d told Vashti that she wasn’t going to take away his boys, and if she did, he’d make sure she’d never see them again,” Kupper recalled.
Seacat also told them he’d been asleep on the couch downstairs when Vashti called him around 3 a.m. and told him to “come get the boys before something happens,” Kupper said. Seacat said he started going upstairs and heard a loud bang, so he went into Vashti Seacat’s bedroom, according to Kupper.
She said Seacat told them, “to spare you the gory details, there was blood everywhere, and she was lying on the bed.”
According to Kupper, Seacat would get “choked up” talking about his sons but showed no emotion when talking about Vashti Seacat, and he never said her name, only referring to her as “she” or “her.” While Seacat told them his wife was “deeply depressed,” Kupper said, she thought his statement did not match what she saw of Vashti Seacat the day before her death “or ever.”
She said Seacat also mentioned “they wouldn’t receive any of the life insurance or home insurance since (Vashti) had committed suicide and set the house on fire.”