The autopsy report on murder victim Vashti Seacat has been released, and it includes details of her gunshot wounds and the finding that she had no carbon monoxide in her blood and no alcohol or drugs in her system.
The Eagle received a copy of the report Monday, three months after a jury convicted Vashti Seacat’s husband, Brett Seacat, of murdering her and setting their Kingman house on fire in April 2011. The report describes four gunshot wounds to the 34-year-old mother. The coroner concluded that one of the wounds, to her neck and head, was fatal. The report describes three other wounds, to the trunk of her body and her hip and thigh, that according to testimony apparently came from bullets from a gun found near her body.
Testing found that Vashti Seacat had no carbon monoxide, a byproduct of breathing around a fire, in her blood and no alcohol or drugs in her system, the report said. According to testimony, there also was no soot in her lungs.
Brett Seacat, a 37-year-old former law enforcement instructor and former Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy, was sentenced in August to life plus six years and three months in prison. He will be eligible for parole in about 30 years.
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The essential argument at his trial, which drew national media coverage, was whether he killed his wife after she filed for divorce and set their home on fire to destroy evidence or whether she committed suicide after starting a fire down the hall from the couple’s two sons, ages 2 and 4. They escaped the fire with their father.
The report concluded that although Vashti Seacat died from the wound to her neck and head, it couldn’t be determined whether it was a homicide. Jaime Oeberst, coroner at the regional forensic science center in Wichita, had testified that she couldn’t say whether the fatal shooting was a homicide or suicide because of heat damage to Vashti Seacat’s body.
Investigators believed that some of the wounds came from bullets that fired from the gun discharging in the heat of the fire. Such rounds have a different appearance than bullets that come from someone pulling a trigger.
Vashti Seacat’s brother, Rich Forrest, said Monday that her family thinks the “the autopsy report substantiates what we’ve known all along” – that her husband killed her, that she didn’t kill herself.
The lead prosecutor at the trial, Assistant Attorney General Amy Hanley, said Monday, “That report speaks for itself.” Hanley declined to elaborate.
Brett Seacat’s mother, Janett Seacat, still maintains that Vashti Seacat committed suicide and that the fatal shot to her neck and head would have immediately stopped her body from functioning and explains why the autopsy found no carbon monoxide in her blood. Janett Seacat said her son will argue in his appeal that his wife committed suicide.
There should have been additional drug-screening, Janett Seacat said.
The Eagle requested a copy of the report nearly two years ago. Recently, a Kingman County judge issued an order that the report could be provided, and the Kansas Attorney General’s Office recently sent a copy of the report to the newspaper’s attorney.
Autopsy reports are public documents that are generally available after being filed with courts, many times within weeks of a death.