Kan. jury convicts former cop of killing his wife
(CNN) — A Kansas jury on Tuesday convicted former cop Brett Seacat of first-degree murder for killing his wife, Vashti Seacat, and trying to cover it up by burning down their house.
The jury deliberated for just six hours before deciding Seacat’s fate.
Seacat showed no emotion as the judge read the guilty verdict, but his father, a former highway patrolman who’s attended almost everyday of the trial, started to cry after the verdict was read.
Sydney Woodside, Vashti’s niece, told a HLN reporter outside the courthouse that she was pleased with the outcome of the trial, but it was excruciating.
“There were a couple points in the trial where you just wanted to scream,” said Woodside.
The jury also convicted Seacat of one count of aggravated arson, and two counts of endangering a child.
The convicted murderer is now facing life in prison, but it will be up to Judge Larry Solomon as to whether Seacat will ever be eligible for parole.
Solomon will sentence Seacat to either life in prison without parole, or life in prison with parole eligibility after 50 years.
Seacat will be 87 years old before he could possibly be up for parole.
Solomon scheduled Seacat’s sentencing for August 5.
During her closing argument Monday, prosecutor Amy Hanley said Seacat was full of uncontrollable rage because his wife had filed for divorce and was kicking him out their house.
“He was like a burning fuse,” said Hanley. “That’s why he was reckless.”
Hanley repeatedly mentioned threats that Seacat allegedly made about killing his wife if she divorced her, and that he specifically said he would shoot her and burn down the house to make it look like she did it.
“He hoped it would burn up the evidence,” said Hanley.
Hanley also reminded the jury multiple times that Seacat is a trained police officer who knows investigators’ techniques, and therefore would know how to manipulate evidence and law enforcement interviews.
“He has an answer for everything,” said Hanley wrapping up her closing argument. “Now it’s time to give him your answer. Find him guilty of first-degree murder.”
Defense attorney Roger Falk said during his closing that Vashti Seacat killed herself because she was depressed due to a side effect of her medication.
Falk also retold the story of Vashti’s death from Brett Seacat’s point of view, saying Vashti called him to come pick up their sons, that he heard gunshots, saw smoke and had to save his young boys.
Seacat was distraught after the incident, according to Falk.
“How do you break the news to a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old that (their) mother is dead?”
Falk also systematically went through all of the purported mistakes investigators made in the case, including the coroner’s inability to determine a manner of death.
“Someone with over 3,000 autopsies under their belt sat here and told you, based upon all of their experience and training, ‘I can’t tell if this is suicide or homicide,'” said Falk.