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Former deputy faces murder charge in Kingman court

Brett Seacat, a 35-year-old law enforcement instructor charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Vashti Seacat, is escorted from his first appearance in Kingman County District Court on Monday, May 16, 2011.
Brett Seacat, a 35-year-old law enforcement instructor charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Vashti Seacat, is escorted from his first appearance in Kingman County District Court on Monday, May 16, 2011. The Wichita Eagle

KINGMAN — A few years ago, Brett Seacat was working as a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy, providing security in courtrooms.

But Monday afternoon, Seacat was the one being secured — with handcuffs around his wrists and chains around his ankles, wearing jail orange.

Seacat, who became an instructor with the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center after his court-security job, made his initial appearance in Kingman County District Court on Monday, charged with murdering his wife.

District Judge Larry Solomon read the four charges against Seacat and said he would face life in prison, without the possibility of parole for 50 years, if convicted of first-degree murder in the death of his wife.

Seacat also is charged with aggravated arson at the couple's home and two counts of aggravated endangering of a child — one count for his 2-year-old son and one count for his 4-year-old son.

Authorities found the body of his 34-year-old wife, Vashti Seacat, in her charred Kingman home after Seacat and their two sons made it out in an early-morning fire on April 30.

Vashti Seacat, who worked in human resources for Cox Communications in Wichita, filed for divorce 16 days before the fire. Her husband had been ordered to vacate the home and pay child support. He has said that they were still living together as a family despite their marital problems.

Authorities have not said how she died.

Seacat appeared to show no emotion as Solomon read the charges, which offered no details of the alleged crimes. When it was Seacat's turn, he stood with a legal pad at a podium, under an ornate tin ceiling in the 1907 courthouse.

When Seacat asked Solomon if he could address his $1 million bond, Solomon said that would have to wait.

Seacat said he planned to apply for a court-appointed attorney but indicated he might also try to hire a lawyer.

Solomon set Seacat's preliminary hearing on the charges for May 26, but the hearing is likely to be postponed.

Meanwhile, Seacat "has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the resolution of this matter by the criminal justice system," said Ed Pavey, director of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in Reno County, where Seacat has worked since around 2008. "We will continue to review his status as information becomes available ... ," Pavey said in an e-mail Monday.

At the center, near Yoder, Seacat has been a basic- training instructor for police recruits from around the state.

He had worked as a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy from 1999 to around 2008.

Myrna Carson, one of several Kingman residents who came to Monday's brief court appearance, said it seems that many people around the town already think Seacat is guilty.

Still, she said, "I think he can get a fair trial, I really do. ... Most people, they have to see the evidence" and be able to weigh it before making a judgment, the 67-year-old said.

Across from the 104-year-old brick and limestone courthouse, Mike Rinke saw television news crews from Wichita, in town for the court appearance, set up outside his auto and home repair shop.

For years, the Seacats have been among his customers — they are a "fine family," he said. "It's mind-boggling that it happened in a small community," he said.

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