KINGMAN, Kansas - Testimony in the trial of a former Kansas lawman has wrapped up with the defendant denying he shot and killed his wife and set their house on fire to hide evidence.
Closing arguments are scheduled Monday in the first-degree murder trial of Brett Seacat for the death of Vashti Seacat. The judge on Friday denied a routine defense motion for acquittal, leaving the verdict to the jury.
During his second day of testimony, Brett Seacat, a former police instructor at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center and before that a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy, methodically recounted an argument he and his wife, Vashti, had the night she died and the events surrounding her death hours later.
The couple had been receiving marriage counseling, and Seacat said he was upset when he learned that night that she meant to go through with a contested divorce she had filed for two weeks earlier.
He testified that he threatened to tell his wife's employer about extramarital affairs she had with two managers, in order to try to get her fired. He said he also threatened to publish private photos of her.
Seacat said he slept on the couch that night, and that his wife woke him with a 3:51 a.m. phone call from an upstairs bedroom in which she said he needed to get their boys or they might get hurt.
He said he heard a loud crackling noise, and while running upstairs, heard a popping sound. Seacat said he lifted his wife from their bed, then realized she was dead and the house was on fire. He said he ran down the hall, grabbed their sons and hurried outside.
Prosecutors allege that Seacat shot his wife, then burned down the home to try to cover it up. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, aggravated arson and two counts of child endangerment.
Seacat's spoke in a monotone Friday, but his voice cracked at times while he was describing a phone call he made to the couple's marriage counselor that morning seeking advice on what to tell their children. He acknowledged telling the counselor that it was his fault his wife is dead — but said he didn't kill her.
"For 19 years, I was the one who protected Vashti," Seacat said. "Finally I pushed her into what I was protecting her from."
He told the jury how he met Vashti when he was competing at a wrestling tournament. They were both in high school — he was 16, she 15 — and they began to date the next day.
"On several occasions I stopped her from doing something I don't think I am allowed to talk about," Seacat testified.
The comment — an apparent reference to previous suicide attempts and fires Vashti allegedly set — prompted prosecutors to object. Judge Larry Solomon ordered jurors to ignore the statement and immediately called a recess.
When the prosecution got its chance to question Seacat, the prosecutor asked Seacat outright if he killed Vashti.
Prosecutor: "You killed your wife didn't you?"
Brett Seacat: "No, ma'am."
Prosecutor: "You shot her in the head."
Brett Seacat: "Impossible."
Prosecutor: "You burnt the house down around her."
Brett Seacat: "I would never burn our house."
Prosecutor: "And you did it while your two kids, two years and four years old, were in the house."
Brett Seacat: "Absolutely not."
KSN's coverage of the trial will continue Monday.
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