Evidence hearing scheduled in Seacat murder trial

Attorneys in the first-degree murder trial of Brett Seacat today will argue whether some evidence, including any prior bad acts by the former law enforcement officer, should be excluded from the jury.

According to a motion filed by the defense, Wednesday’s proceeding will “screen out unreliable or illegally obtained evidence and insure that this evidence does not become known to the jury,” which is expected to hear Seacat’s case starting Dec. 3.

The evidence hearing is set for 9 a.m. in Kingman.

Seacat, 36, of Kingman, is accused of intentional murder in the shooting death of his wife, Vashti Seacat — a 34-year-old mother of two. Authorities found Vashti Seacat’s body among the charred remains of the Seacats’ Kingman home on April 30, 2011.

Seacat also faces aggravated arson and two counts of child endangerment for allegedly setting fire to the house while the couple’s sons — 2 and 4 — slept down the hall. The defense has suggested Vashti Seacat committed suicide, based on a coroner’s inability to rule her death a homicide due to severe heat damage to her body.

Seacat was an instructor at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center at the time of her death. He is also a former Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy.

Also on Wednesday, Seacat’s attorneys will ask the court to exclude the media and public from the day’s proceedings, in an effort to prevent news coverage of evidence that may later be ruled inadmissible during the trial. The defense maintains publicity may taint the jury pool, jeopardizing Seacat’s right to a fair trial, according to a motion filed by his attorneys.

Kingman County has a population of 7,853 — relatively low compared to neighboring Sedgwick County’s 501,076 residents -- according to 2011 Census Bureau estimates. Seacat, who will not seek a change of venue, asked to be tried in his hometown of Kingman, defense attorney Roger Falk told the court on July 11.

Several local media outlets, including The Wichita Eagle, have filed a joint motion opposing the proposed closure. Kingman County District Judge Larry Solomon is expected to rule on the request before the evidence hearing.

Vashti Seacat, who worked for Cox Communications in Wichita, had filed for divorce 16 days before she died. Her husband was still living in the home the morning she was killed.

Seacat faces life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years, if convicted of first-degree murder. He is being held in Kingman County Jail on $1 million bond.

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