Former Sedgwick County sheriff’s Deputy Brett Seacat was sentenced Monday to life plus 6 years and 3 months in prison for murdering his wife and setting his house on fire with his two young children inside.
The sentence, the maximum allowed under Kansas law, will make him eligible for parole in about 30 years.
Seacat, 37, was convicted June 11 of first-degree murder, aggravated arson and two counts of child endangerment, all linked to the April 30, 2011, death of 34-year-old Vashti Seacat and a fire that destroyed the couple’s house while their sons, then 2 and 4, were inside.
During a two-hour sentencing hearing at the Kingman County Courthouse, several of Vashti Seacat’s relatives accused Brett Seacat of being arrogant and narcissistic while urging District Judge Larry Solomon to impose the maximum sentence.
Seacat, speaking in his own behalf, then offered a rambling 15-minute speech that accused the judge and Vashti Seacat’s relatives of benefiting from her death. He said the family stood to gain financially from his conviction.
“With Vashti committing suicide, they get no money,” he said. “With Vashti murdered, they do.”
He then turned his attention to Solomon.
“Go ahead and pass a sentence you think will get you the big headlines,” he told the judge. “Go ahead and pass a sentence you think will get you a spot on the Kansas Supreme Court.”
During his trial, prosecutors said Seacat, an instructor at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center at the time of his arrest, plotted to kill his wife after she filed for divorce. On the night she died, they said, he shot her while she slept and then started a fire in her upstairs bedroom to cover up the crime. The defense said she was depressed and set the fire herself before committing suicide.
A jury deliberated about six hours before convicting Seacat of all charges.
Following his conviction, prosecutors announced that they would seek a Hard 50 prison sentence – life without parole for 50 years. They withdrew the request after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that they said invalidates the basis of the state’s Hard 50 law.
That left the only one unresolved issue at the sentencing: whether Seacat’s sentences should run concurrently or consecutively. Defense lawyer Roger Falk argued for concurrent sentences.
“Brett Seacat has absolutely no prior criminal history,” he said. “Brett Seacat served the Sedgwick County community for many years as a law enforcement officer.”
Assistant Kansas Attorney General Amy Hanley also mentioned Seacat’s law enforcement experience in asking for consecutive sentences.
“He used that experience to stage a crime scene,” she said.
Among those speaking at the sentencing was Vashti Seacat’s brother, Rich Forrest.
“I have many questions that will never be answered, most of which ultimately is why?” he said. “Why did you have to take her life?”
Forrest held up a picture of his sister and her children.
“This is my sister,” he told the judge. “She will not be eligible for parole in 25 years, and she will not be given a second chance to be reintegrated into society.”
Jeff Kamnikar, who is married to Vashti Seacat’s sister, also spoke.
“We would like you to tell the truth,” he told Seacat. “If you had a sliver of morality in you, you would do that. But telling the truth isn’t who you are.”
Seacat, who took notes on a legal pad as Vashti Seacat’s relatives spoke, then stood and began addressing them one-by-one.
“I swear to God I didn’t kill your sister,” he told Vashti Seacat’s sister, Taylor Forrest, one of several people who accused him of being arrogant.
“You talked about arrogance; in fact every one of you talked about arrogance,” Seacat said. “You said I was arrogant in believing I could destroy evidence of a crime.
“That’s ridiculous. I teach about crime. I know what covers up crime and what doesn’t. I know that a bullet hole has never been covered up by a fire. I know that a murder has never been concealed by means of a fire. I never would have lit a fire to cover this up.”
Seacat went on to accuse some of Vashti Seacat’s relatives of physically, mentally or even sexually abusing her. He said she had attempted suicide several times, both before and after they were married.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say again: Vashti’s suicide was my fault,” he said.
At the end of the hearing, Solomon labeled Seacat’s allegations “so bizarre they don’t deserve a response.”
“They merely affirm to me that 12 Kingman County citizens made the appropriate decision in this case,” he said.
“At trial, you made every effort possible to drag her name and her reputation through the mud,” Solomon added. “About your being arrogant, controlling, self-centered and narcissistic, your statement here today confirms that to me.”
Solomon said it was apparent that Seacat thought he was smarter than the police and prosecutors who investigated and prosecuted the case, as well as the 12 jurors who convicted him of murder.
“In the end, we know you weren’t smarter than any one of them,” Solomon said.