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Kansas high court hears appeal of ex-deputy convicted of killing wife, setting fire as cover


TOPEKA, Kansas — The Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments but took no immediate action Thursday on the appeal from a former Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy serving a life sentence for killing his wife weeks after she filed for divorce, then setting fire to the family's home to destroy evidence as their two young sons slept down the hall.

Brett Seacat was convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder and other charges in the shooting death of his 34-year-old wife, Vashti Seacat, in their Kingman home during the early hours of April 30, 2011, 16 days after she filed for divorce. The jury rejected defense arguments that she committed suicide.

Seacat was also convicted of aggravated arson and child endangerment.

Debra Wilson, an attorney for Seacat, told justices that hearsay testimony about statements Vashti Seacat allegedly made before her death should not have been allowed at trial. She said the trial judge abused his discretion by allowing the testimony that she told others her husband had threatened to kill her and burn down their home with her inside.

Also at issue in the appeal is whether some evidence, including some of her alleged prior suicide attempts, should have been barred from trial.

Brett Seacat was a police instructor at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center at the time of his wife's death, and had been a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy.

Investigators found his wife's body among the charred remains of the house where the couple lived with their two sons, ages 2 and 4. Brett Seacat escaped with the two boys.

Prosecutors at his trial portrayed Seacat as a manipulative man who used his law enforcement background to make it look like his wife shot herself. The defense argued Vashti Seacat killed herself, noting even an experienced coroner couldn't decide whether the death was suicide or homicide.

At sentencing, Seacat accused the trial judge of helping convict him by hiding evidence Seacat claims proves his innocence and said that one day the evidence would be presented and "I will be set free."

Associated Press writer Roxana Hegeman in Wichita contributed to this report.

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