An investigator testified Thursday he found a handwritten note on a former Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy that mentioned “accident” and “no suicide” after the man’s home was set afire and his wife was found inside shot to death.
Brian Carroll, senior special agent with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, resumed his testimony Thursday in the second week of trial for 37-year-old Brett Seacat, a former deputy and Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center instructor charged with first-degree murder in the April 30, 2011, shooting death of his wife, Vashti. She was found dead after a fire at their Kingman home, where investigators say a gasoline trail was found.
Carroll told Kingman County jurors that he found the handwritten note on Seacat at the Kingman Law Enforcement Center after the fire, which Seacat reported to authorities at 3:51 a.m. April 30, 2011. The note had a number list that included: “Calm, died, accident”; “Her parents”; “Everything that the truth” (sic); “No suicide”; and three telephone numbers.
“He told me he had talked to his counselor … and he had sought her advice on how to tell his children about their mother’s death,” Carroll testified when asked by Seacat’s attorney, John Val Wachtel, what the note meant.
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Wachtel also questioned Carroll about what he found in the master bedroom, where Vashti Seacat’s body was found on a bed still covered by a charred blanket and a .44-magnum Ruger Redhawk under her torso.
Prosecutors allege Brett Seacat shot and killed his wife while she was sleeping and then set fire to their Kingman home to cover up the crime. Seacat, who is also charged with aggravated arson and two counts of aggravated endangerment of a child, escaped the blaze with the couple’s two sons, then ages 2 and 4.
Seacat’s attorneys contend, however, that a depressed Vashti Seacat set fire to the home before committing suicide. She died from a gunshot wound toward the back of her neck, below her ear, but burns to her body prevented a coroner from making a definitive decision on whether the death was a homicide or suicide.
“Assuming she was on left side sleeping and she was shot in her neck … where would we expect that bullet to be?” Wachtel asked Carroll.
Carroll said he wasn’t a shooting reconstruction expert, and that there are several factors that affect where the bullet or bullet fragments would be. He said he sifted through the charred remains of the master bedroom but acknowledged that he didn’t use a metal detector. Carroll said he was told the bullet was found in the body.
Family members of Vashti Seacat, seated on the opposite side of the courtroom from Brett Seacat’s family, wiped away tears when jurors were shown a photo of Vashti’s burned body on the bed.