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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  July 3, 2021 12:00am-2:00am PDT

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>> i wonder why i didn't do more. i should have done something different. i'll live with that, for our. forever and ever it will haunt me. >> high school sweethearts with a growing family, then it all went up in flames. >> there's a fire, 9-1-1. >> his wife was inside. >> i believe somehow it wasn't true. >> none of it made sense to me. >> but buried in the ashes, secrets. >> i don't care what you think you're seeing, you are dealing with a murder. >> the gun, how did it end up
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completely underneath the body? >> in the front driver seat there was a note. >> she had rekindled a relationship with one of the executives. >> did someone have something to hide? >> did you murder her? >> no. >> did you pull the trigger? >> no. >> did you kill? her >> know. >> he had answers for everything. >> your head is spinning, you realize this is it. >> you're going to hell for what you've done in this case. >> it was dark, past 3 am, a week christened moon struggling to pierce the night. kingman county, population 3000 was asleep, except -- on a quiet residential street,
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a woman unable to sleep watched a crime show on tv. what was that popping noise she heard or was it her tv show? or just our remnant of the windy day licking on her windowsill? the silent night closed in again, april 30th 2011, tornado seat isn't. and there was a storm that night. a world win even their sweeping all of fit into its vortex, but it began not with when but was fire. >> 9-1-1, do you have an emergency? >> yes. >> what's the problem? calm down. >> there's, there is a fire. >> 3:51 am, the man on the phone to 9-1-1 was frantic, out of breath. >> and my wife is, i. >> here's the actual video of the one officer on duty that night, speeding to the burning house where he met the 9-1-1 call or outside. you can hear them both recorded
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by his patrol car dashboard video cam. >> where you? at >> right here in the driveway. >> he said that his wife was still in the master bedroom, in the back of the house, second floor. but if that was true? it didn't look good for her. with a pastor by caught this video on his cell phone. by then the volunteer fire brigade was arriving, not much any of them could do for the woman inside. as the man calm down a little, he told the officers he was able, only, to rescue his two and four year old son, carried them to safety. so somewhere in there his wife, their mother, was dead. there was more to his story, as you will hear. much more. but for now, the dismal business of sorting out what happened. so, where to begin? the man on the street said his wife's name was vashti, vashti seacat,. >> it was a name out of the bible, there was a queen who my
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dad taught was neat so we named her vashti. >> her sister kathleen lived through hours away. either she nor her brother rich could believe what they heard that dark morning. >> the first thing i did was called the sheriff's department. just to verify. >> did they help you? did they tell you anything? >> first he asked why was, then explain my relationship to vashti and then he said yes, there's been a fire. we believe she's deceased. >> and the man standing outside his burning house? that was vashti's husband, brett seacat, her first love. >> they met in high school, they did some stats for a team and he was a wrestler. first little of it high school. first boyfriend girlfriend. >> they broke up and got back together a few times as people do until they finally married in 2004. >> that first love, always
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holds a special place in your life. >> but biden on the 30th of april 2011, as you will hear brett certainly knew what to do in a crisis, there was nothing here anyone could do to get it back. the life he had with vashti and their two boys, now motherless boys, brendan born in the fall of 2006 and bronson less than two years later. >> when they had their babies it was a very happy time. my sister was mother of the year. >> at four in the morning she would get up, hand make baby food. >> while. >> so her kids could have organic, healthy food. >> she lived for those babies. >> not just her own kids -- >> she was the first to help someone, at the boys daycare, a little boy had -- it was cancer, leukemia or something -- she stayed up and baked many loaves of banana bread and sold those to raise the money for that void to have treatment.
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>> what was brett as a dad? >> he did lots of things for the kids. i will tell you, he did walks with them. he would play outside with some. he was very engaged as a dad. he was very proud of his sons. >> brett he was a law man from a family of lawman, a former sheriff's deputy and for the last few years he had been teaching officer recruits of all types at the training center. where bob being seacat, one of his brothers work before him. >> he was hired to replace me when i left there. >> so what was the job? teaching? what >> he got into the accident investigation, but he was much more into physical training. defense tactics than i ever was. >> he had more interest in that type of thing? >> he did. >> personal combat stuff? >> he did, growing up he got into martial arts. he was into wrestling in high school. and then he got into bodybuilding, martial arts
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things. he was a lot bigger than i was. >> the training center job gave him a set schedule which was a regular change from being a sheriff, especially being with the two boys cramming for his attention. >> he was close to the boys but he was very masculine with the boys, he was like raise the mass boys. they were tough, they wrestled a lot. he would wrestle with them. he would toss them across the room on the couch and they would bounce off the couch. and come right back. >> a terrible thing to happen to such a beautiful young family. even if the fire was all you heard about. but now brett seacat headed to the local enforcement a few blocks away and there he repeated to fellow law enforcement officers something he'd said on the 9-1-1 call. that the fire was not what killed vashti seacat. coming up.
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what did happen to vashti? >> she was lying on her left side, she was under the covers asleep. >> a surprising piece of evidence right there in the bedroom. >> the firearm was actually under her left hip which would've been against the mattress with the barrel facing downward. >> firearm? a gun? in the bed? >> when dateline continues. when dateline continues this past year has felt like a long, long norwegian winter.
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but eventually, with spring comes rebirth. everything begins anew. and many of us realize a fundamental human need to connect with other like-minded people. welcome back to the world. viking. exploring the world in comfort... once again.
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[ "me and you" by barry louis polisar ] ♪ me and you just singing on the train ♪
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♪ me and you listening to the rain ♪ ♪ me and you we are the same ♪ ♪ me and you have all the fame we need ♪ ♪ indeed, you and me are we ♪ ♪ me and you singing in the park ♪ >> the sun rose over grief and ♪ me and you, we're waiting for the dark ♪
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chaos that last morning of april 2011 in kingman texas. vashti seacat was dead her house burned near her, and her husband a little boy had just started to understand what had happened to them. the can't believe it stage, just like her siblings kathleen and rich. >> i believed somehow it was untrue. you plead with god or you just want a miracle to happen. >> no miracles to be had. and that might have been the end of it really, an awful tragedy but these things do happen and for all the loved ones are forgotten by the end of the world. except, those volunteer firemen weren't quite sure what they were dealing with. so they took the prudent state and called the fire marshal --
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>> we got a lot more training, we have a lot more exposure to the scientific side of things. >> that morning he was the agent who showed up at the house to take a look around. >> if you look at it from the front of the house, all you really notice was the fact that part of the roof had collapsed as you made your way around, it was heavy fire damage, to include collapse to the second and third floor which is significant. >> the front facade was up and the rest was -- >> it wasn't down but anybody going by could say that a significant fire had gone inside. >> you heard there was a body inside. did you hear anything else? >> normally when i arrived at the scene like that i will meet with the on scene investigators, the fire chief, local officers and they'd informed me, as a first arriving officer got there that he made contact with brett seacat and he indicated that his wife was inside. >> they also told him that when the first responders arrived,
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the windows in the master bedroom were still intact, which would've tempt down the fire inside the room where vashti was last seen and that meant there was some chance, at least, that some evidence would still exist in their. wouldn't be can split the incinerated by the flames. and sure enough, when monte got inside what was left of the house, he saw the body of vashti seacat lying on the mattress in the master bedroom on the second floor. >> she was lying on her left side, her knees were drawn up, it appeared that her elbows were bent. there is still a significant amount of blanket and covering on her, like she was under the covers, asleep. >> also there, a weapon. >> the firearm was actually under her left hip which would've been against the mattress with the barrel facing downward. >> it became clear, the gun had been the source of a single gunshot wound to the side of
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her lower skull. there were other rooms to. oddly enough, you can hear gunshots going off during the fire in that cell phone video shot by a passer by. [noise] it had to be, agent monty, when the fire exploded the remaining bullets of the gun sending the bullets into vashti's body. something else didn't burn up completely. >> we noticed a red plastic container, very close to car back on the mattress itself. >> plastic container, for what? >> it was a gas can. >> clearly a gas? can >> yes. >> so, what did that tell you? >> our job that day was to determine the origin cause of the fire in declassify, whether it was accidental, whether we couldn't to terminate a cause or someone intentionally said the fire. >> that would make a suggestion, if there's a gas can on the bed. >> yes, that would be an
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indication. >> suspicious? oh yes. but maybe not what you're thinking. maybe not murder. in fact, the answer to what happened to vashti seacat was right there in her husband's call to 9-1-1. >> she shot herself, but she's in the fire. >> but why would the mother of two little boys killed herself? that was a story only her widow or brett seacat could tell. coming up. >> she wanted to make everybody happy. >> brett seacat has some secrets to share. >> she said that she would put one face for the family and then be a different person at home. >> so brett knew, and nobody else? >> correct. >> inside a relationship on the ropes. >> i made a perfectly heard that i was gonna do everything i could for her not to see the kids again. >> when "dateline" continues. ateline" continues uncontrollable body movements
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called tardive dyskinesia - td. and it can seem like that's all people see. some meds for mental health can cause abnormal dopamine signaling in the brain. while how it works is not fully understood, ingrezza is thought to reduce that signaling. ingrezza is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with td movements in the face and body. people taking ingrezza can stay on their current dose of most mental health meds. don't take ingrezza if you're allergic to any of its ingredients. ingrezza may cause serious side effects, including sleepiness. don't drive, operate heavy machinery, or do other dangerous activities until you know how ingrezza affects you. other serious side effects include potential heart rhythm problems and abnormal movements. shift the focus more on you. ask your doctor about ingrezza. it's simple. one pill, once-daily. #1 prescribed for td. learn how you could pay as little as $0 at >> fire is a terrible thing to
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happen to a family. the fire was only half of the deadly event that ruptured the seacat family of kingman texas. this was a fire and a shooting, apparently both the suicidal work of vashti seacat. because it occurred in the small barrel county, it triggered a call to the k b eye, the statewide kansas bureau of investigation. who special agent dave falletti welcome the chance to hear would happen from a brett seacat himself.
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brett was in law enforcement himself and understood that agent falletti needed to hear the whole story. >> we interviewed him for a seven and a half hours. just two cops talking to each other. >> seemed to be forthcoming? >> yeah, very forthcoming. >> i just wanna talk to you about what happened. i know it's been a terrible time for you. >> the agent was about to discover that brett was dealing not just with grief but with the every burdened of guilt, do it took a while to get to that part of the story. >> usually when we interview people i want them to start at the very beginning and we did. >> brett told him the story about how he met vashti in high school and how he was smitten from the very first moment. >> she was great. she wanted to make everybody happy. she really worked on that, she really cared about what people thought about her. almost to the point that --
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>> maybe that's why in recent years she's been paying way too much attention to her job, he said. even when she was home. >> she was very dedicated to her job, i always thought that that took away from her time with the kids. the kids and i may be playing in the liver group and she would be working. >> making matters worse, said brett, was that vashti was the present had been for a long time, something that almost no one knew. >> he'd inform us that vashti -- there would basically be to vashti, she would put on a face for her family and a different face at home. >> so brett knew, and nobody else. >> she would get depressed over something, and she would never talk to anybody about being depressed, she was always worried about how people viewed her. even as her boyfriend, as her husband who the only reason i've been got exposed to that
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is because i spent night with her. >> things got so bad, brett said, her depression was affecting their marriage and they started seeing a therapist. he also told investigators that to help her lose weight, vashti took a hormonal supplement, h c g which has been linked to depression. and he remembered something, that now came back to haunt him, he told them. that one night he and vashti were watching a drama on tv during which. >> someone had committed suicide with a firearm and she had asked him if that gun would be a good going to do that with, and he said yeah, i've got one of those but the dirty harry gun which he indicated was the 44 magnum that they had would be a better tool to do that with. >> so you look back on it than in the interview with you as oh my god, i told her out to kill herself. >> right. >> but it got even worse said brett when vashti told him to
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his dismay that she wanted to split up, and served him with divorce papers and he very upset, he said, told her the night she died -- >> i will go to her, and i made it perfectly clear whether was truthful or not that if this went to court i was gonna do everything i could to make sure that she doesn't see the kids again. >> there was no sharing a bed anymore and after he fell asleep on the couch downstairs, he said, his cell phone rang. it was vashti calling from the bedroom upstairs. >> when i answered she said are you awake for? you need to come get the boys. >> brett said he jumped up and heard a loud noise. >> and then i just hear someone slamming the door. >> and then he said he heard someone walking around in the
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second floor and went upstairs. >> there were small flames around the door, the flames were about this high. >> and then he said he ran into the master bedroom. >> the bed was on fire and the whole room could've been on fire, i'm pretty sure it was. >> but i was just looking right there. and vashti was laying on her back, right in the spot where she sleeps. >> he said he reached over her right shoulder and around her neck, -- >> i pulled her up, and she sank down, just waffled in my arms down straight. then all of a sudden, it sort of came to me dead, fire, kids.
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>> i just dropped her. >> that's when he ran to the boys room, scoop them up and ran downstairs, put them in the car and then called 9-1-1. then, ran back into the house to try and get vashti vashti, he covered his face with a wet dish cloth and right up the stairs. >> by the time i get up to the top of the stairs it's pitch black and i can't see, anything. not even my hand in front of my face. i told myself to get out. >> and now vashti was dead and brett couldn't stop wondering, he told agent falletti, wondering if she was thinking about the kids as she prepared to end her life? >> she didn't want me to say goodbye, to say night night, that was the big one. she did love those kids. i could see her going in their kissing each one. >> brett said, he explained to the boys, especially the older one, that mommy is in half and now, that she's with god.
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>> you talk about that every night, right before bed. >> and he cop to cop, it was as if brett seacat was in a confessional booth. full of sorrow for threatening to take away the boys, the three trigger he was shore for her suicide. >> did he seem remorseful about? >> yes he did. >> he showed remorse that he had driven her to commit suicide. he had given heart no other out than to take her own life. >> coming up. a journal -- >> in the front driver seat was would appear to be a note to her two children and brett. >> could it be a final message to her family? >> she told her family to take care of each other and brett i took care of the house for you. >> none of it made sense to me. >> when "dateline" continues. ine" continues
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has agreed to asia and 50 million dollar settlements. with survivors who say they were sexually abused by scout leaders. it is the largest set and one in a child sexual abuse case in u.s. history. and the u.s. military vacated bagram airfield, the largest u.s. military base in afghanistan. effectively ending operations in the country after nearly 20 years. the exit is part of president biden's plan to withdrawal all but a small force of up to 100 troops before september 11th of this year. now back to dateline.
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>>th o th the known facts were stark. quite clear. vashti seacat was dead. a fatal bullet wound to the head. her house burned around her, her boys mother less, her husband would or. now, the trick would be, finding evidence for or against the story behind the apparent suicide, brett seacat's story. which was long in coming said lead kbi agent. in bashed east purse they found a post it note with a list of expenses. >> indications of money that she needed in her life insurance. >> the included funeral expenses. and then they had a good look through vashti's volkswagen and in her truck they found printed material about clumping with stress and anxiety. but more important, investigators discovered something falletti new is
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absolutely key. >> and the front driver seat was a journal. as you open that book and go past some of the notes that she had written in reference to her children, kind of bookmarks with a string that usually find in those types of books was will appear to be a note to her two children. and in that note she is trying to explain, tell the children i love them. she's telling her children to keep -- take care of each other and made the comment that brett i took care of the house. for >> the new also said, she would be watching over her sons from heaven. >> all those words on that page seemed pretty clear, it was a good bye note. investigators also talked to vashti's friends and family, colleagues at cox communications where she worked in human resources. others who knew her well. they said vashti had been going to a therapist for several months. that she had been losing a lot of weight recently. and taking the hormonal supplement a cheesy.
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could it have affected her mood? brett's half brother bobby was dumbstruck by what happened. couldn't comprehend it. social he peppered him with questions. >> none of it made sense with. me i said, where their problems? he said yeah, she filed for divorce. and he told me they've been to see a counselor. they've been good through counseling for six months. i said, what would cause her to do this? and he said, i use the boys as a weapon. something i never should've done. if she tried taking custody of the buoys i would take the boys and run away with them. he was beating himself up about that. and i have course said, probably half of all the people who have ever gotten a divorce that have kids involved have said something similar. >> bobby was learning things about vashti he had never known, he said. like when brett told him before vashti died she had been spending evenings out. >> going out partying and
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dancing and drinking. >> so, where with the kids be when she did? that >> with brett. and i'm not saying the kids didn't mean a lot are. she was a wonderful person on the surface. and there was a different vashti that we were unaware of. it's upsetting to be made aware of the aware of it. >> but brett, vashti's going out was a sure sign she was sinking into depression. if it a pattern he had seen before. as he told investigators. again, bobby was shocked. didn't know anything about it. >> before this happened, i had never heard anything about her being suicidal. and that is why i have some disappointment in my half brother. if he felt a duty to protect her, i understand. but there are other people there to help you through this. in hindsight, i'm sure he wishes he could've shared those things. >> the one thing jumped right back at bobby. something he saw the weekend before vashti died.
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she seemed sad and withdrawn that time she saw her. sitting by herself in the house. while her young sons were hunting for easter eggs outside. >> she was not typical vashti. who was usually bubbly and talkative. it was unusual that any easter egg hunt occurred and she didn't even get off the couch and come outside. >> bobby and his wife noticed. asked how she was doing. >> oh she told us that day was she really did it like work. and work was a struggle for her daily. she said, i got into hr to give people a future and hope. and i don't remember the last person i heard. >> according to bobby, vashti said when she totally off employees it was difficult for her. especially if she was close to them. >> she said, if they're not your friends, they take the news and they leave. if they are your friends they say your office and cry on your shoulder for an hour. >> as brett filled his half brother in on everything, bobby came to understand that
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apparently the emotions of vashti's job, the strain of her divorce, her depression, and brett's threat to kate take the kids from her proved too much. sadly, she took her life. leaving brett and the boys to go on somehow themselves. >> i've gotten past anger towards her. now is just bothers me. there's just things i think in her life that the real. >> but to set the house on fire with her own little boys inside? >> we're trying to assign rational thinking to someone that i believe was getting ready to take their own life. >> so, for brett's family it was starting to make sense. but for vashti's family, it just made no sense at all. >> coming up -- questions and suspicions. >> he didn't like people. he more wanted to isolate my sister and cut her kept her all to himself. >> i don't care what you're
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being told, i don't care what you think you are seeing, you are dealing with a murder. >> when dateline continues. hey, i just got a text from my sister. you remember rick, her neighbor? sure, he's the 76-year-old guy who still runs marathons, right? sadly, not anymore. wow. so sudden. um, we're not about to have the "we need life insurance" conversation again, are we? no, we're having the "we're getting coverage
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and see f9 only in theaters. kathleen and rich were there. ♪ ♪ so was brett with his two. sounds not easy for any of them. and true -- as a way of looking so very different depending on who was doing the looking. which is why the minute rich found out something happened to his sister, he called the kingman county sheriff's office. >> i said, i don't care what you're being told, i don't care what you think you're seeing, i said you are dealing with a murder. >> a murder?
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even as they grieved, kathleen and rich had become suspicious of brett. ever since brett called kathleen to tell her the news and freeze day in such an odd week. >> he said, vashti killed herself and then set the house on fire. so, how it was said to us was backwards kim. i just from conversations her and i had had, i knew. i just knew. >> what did he sound like? >> no emotion. very calm. no tears, no hysterics. but >> just very matter-of-fact. >> i am hysterical. i'm not married to her and she's not the mother of my children and i'm hysterical. but he wasn't. >> week or so later, brett drove down to oklahoma to speak directly with kathleen and her husband. >> and he had answers for everything. like, why she did what she did. why she thought she what she thought. it was like a script.
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answers for everything. we're normal people would be confused. and there was a picture of her that was a poster sized picture on my fireplace, and i looked over at it and said, she was such a good mother. and i broke down and he said, well i'm, over that. i'm just kind of angry at her and ready to move on. >> they had to admit that brett 's social interactions had always been a little cold. sometimes inappropriate. and his reaction to vashti's death was not out of character. >> he didn't like people. he more wanted to isolate my sister and have her all to himself. i almost felt like vashti and the children were more of a possession -- >> they were his. >> like your clan. >> everybody stay away from my stuff. >> yeah.
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>> so, it was a different kind of love than maybe what i would define as love. >> early on, at least according to her siblings, vashti questioned her decision to marry brett. wondering if she should stay in the marriage. that is until she found out she was pregnant with the first of her sons. >> i do think brett treated her well while she was pregnant. he was very proud he was going to be having sense. and the seacat name was going to be, you know, pushed on. that several times in their marriage it didn't feel right. i know she missed family. she wanted to reconnect with friends. she felt forced to not have the same friends. and that bothers her. >> did a change the way she was, her personality? >> those boys were her life. so, i think she was so focused -- >> focused and wrapped up in the children that you know, she probably didn't notice it like we did from the outside. >> by the fall of 2010, said
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kathleen, vashti was miserable again. she was feeling depressed then. so she and brett start facing a therapist, together, and alone. but things didn't get any better. so in the spring of 2011, vashti filed for divorce. >> this was an a spontaneous, oh elf think i'll just get divorce. and i know she had thought eight through well enough. >> she had had enough of it and told kathleen so. >> she said, he's a grandiose narcissist and is not going to get better. it's not going to change. >> but was vashti depressed as brett was saying? >> not anymore said kathleen and rich. they talk to her all the time they said. and though she was sad about the divorce, she was looking forward finally to a happier life. she felt liberated, they said. was excited about her job. was losing weight, starting new friendships. i'm planning a vacation with
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you? >> and a concert, and a white trip, and a springfield trip. and we had just gone shopping the week before. and the clothes were still in the bag at our house. in fact, she had so many things lined up for us to do, that i was thinking i can't keep up with her. >> so, they did it by the story at all. >> she was not depressed. she was anything but. >> the wednesday before vashti died, when brett was served with a divorce papers, she spent that night with their sons at a friends house. i was going to stay there until friday. but brett was supposed to be out of the house, that was the plan said kathleen. >> he got a hold of her on thursday i told her to come home. that she owed it to him to let him say goodbye to his kids. he told her he couldn't be out by friday, he had nowhere to go. his parents didn't even know they were contemplating divorce. he didn't have any friends to go stay with.
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he said, he needed a few more days to get out. could she please come home and let him tell his voice goodbye and just talk. i begged her to not go. as she said, kathleen, my only way out is to try to reason with him. she said, i'm not a monster. i'm not a monster. he has nowhere else. >> rich talk to vashti that friday about dinnertime. >> the whole conversation was, paces, how are things going in light of the situation. everything she said was, well, brett it's having a really hard time with this. brett brett is really struggling with this. >> it hurt her that he was sore torn up. >> in less than 12 hours later, vashti was dead. kathleen rich told investigators that's the truth, as they saw it. they were certain brett killed vashti, made it look like suicide and because he was a
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man who actually trained law enforcement officers -- >> you are worried that because of his training he knew how to be the system? >> oh yeah, he would brag about. he had books, you know, he knew how to do it. >> coming up -- brett seacat under scrutiny. >> if you bend over a bed that's been on fire, he would have some type of singeing. there was as singe there was absolutely nothing. >> and a desperate family. >> i remember grabbing somebody that was working the scene and i said, give me some hope. and he said, in this instance, justice will be served. >> when dateline continues. ontinues the mirror. and know you're not alone. because this is not just a mirror, it's an unstoppable community. come on jesse, one more! it's every workout. come on you two, let's go! for everyone. so join in now. and
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see your best self. in the mirror. alright, guys, no insurance talk on beach day. -i'm down. -yes, please. [ chuckles ] don't get me wrong, i love my rv, but insuring it is such a hassle. same with my boat. the insurance bills are through the roof. -[ sighs ] -be cool. i wish i could group my insurance stuff. -[ coughs ] bundle. -the house, the car, the rv. like a cluster. an insurance cluster. -woosah. -[ chuckles ] -i doubt that exists. -it's a bundle! it's a bundle, and it saves you money! hi. i'm flo from progressive, and i couldn't help but overhear... super fun beach day, everybody. why hide your skin if dupixent has your moderate-to-severe eczema, or atopic dermatitis under control? hide our skin? not us. because dupixent targets a root cause of eczema, it helps heal your skin from within, keeping you one step ahead of it. and for kids ages 6 and up, that means clearer skin, and noticeably less itch. hide my skin? not me.
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straightforward determining from evidence was suicide and what's murder. brett said it was obviously suicide. her family said, no way. so, now investigators had to figure out who was right. they scoured the wreck of the seacat house for clues. >> i remember grabbing one of the kbi, somebody that was working the scene and, i said, give me some hope. are you finding something that's going to let everybody know what happened. and i remember he looked at me and he said, i will tell you this, and in this instance,
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justice will be served. >> but what did that mean? as another investigator told them, just -- >> justice will be served. and maybe justice he didn't know. we don't have emotions in this. we are here to collect facts. >> and collect they did. including a bit of unborn material on the dining room table in the seacat home. quite odd. >> it was actually a powerpoint that included, almost like an instructor would be teaching a class on different types of death. suicides, homicide, i believe was listed on their. fire, blunt force trauma. things that an officer or an investigator would be looking at when they're investigating a death. >> that would make sense though if he's a teacher or a policeman? >> individually, that clock probably could be looked at. >> in fact, said brett, that's exactly what it was. >> it was people that he had brought home from school, or
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from class, that he had taken i believe in college. and it was just scrap paper and he pulled it in there because the night before the morning she passed away, they had been working on a budget. and we did find what looked like somebody was preparing a budget for their bills together. because they had separate accounts. so, he was trying to show that he could help her out and pay off some of these. bills >> and that was the activity in the evening before she died? >> correct. >> so, it was kind of a cooperative activity. >> according to mr. seacat, yes. >> also brett said that when he ran into the burning bedroom to try to save vashti, he was only wearing pants, no shirt or shoes. so, -- >> i would've expected to see some type of injury from fire. all we end up finding was a very minor singeing of his legs and here. you get more than that if you're lighting a barbecue pit and you set yourself. he had a couple of minor blisters on his feet. if he bent over a bed that is on fire to get his wife, i
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would've expected his chest to have some type of singeing. there is absolutely nothing. >> what's more, the kbi found a small amount of gasoline on the pants he was wearing. suspicious? maybe. but proof of murder, staging the scene? not even close. there was an autopsy, of course. the results of which could be seen as suspicious. or not. >> there was no suit in her airway, her lungs. that would indicate that there were no rest taken prior to the fire getting in to the house. >> the fire was late after she was dead? >> you can make that assumption. >> is it possible that she could have poured the accelerant around various places in the house, let them all, hopped back into bed, covered herself up, shut herself and then died with -- and still had no suit in her lungs? i mean, the fire is just getting started? >> it's possible. but if she's made that decision to go to that length, i would
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expect that she would be very excited. her respiration would be very rapid. she would be breathing heavy. >> there would be something in her lungs? something to indicate? >> that would be my experience. i've worked multiple fatality fires over the years. >> but atf investigators opinion aside, facts or facts. and the coroner said there just weren't enough of them to determine whether vashti's death was homicide or suicide. just too much fire damage to know for sure. >> so, agent falletti and his team poked around for whatever circumstantial evidence there might be. they went to where brett worked and were told by coworkers at the law enforcement training center that on the day before vashti died, brett took two computer hard drives to the maintenance shop there. and asked, how to destroy them. >> ultimately they showed him a torch and he used the torch to basically burn at a very high
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temperature, he's that to torch the hard drive. >> and then threw them away. two different trash cans. along with a couple of cellphones which he had first pulled apart. troubling. on the other hand, it was a like he was skulking around or hiding any of that unusual activity. even as his colleagues for help. so, back to the house. and the neighborhood around it. door-to-door went falletti and his team of investigators. and three doors down from the seacat house was a woman who said she was having trouble sleeping that night. as seoul was a week in the wee hours, watching tv in her living room. >> at some point she believes she heard what was a gunshot. and she believed that was sometime before the fire trucks and the police officer showed up in front of the seacat residents. >> exactly when each of those things happened, she couldn't say for sure. but, reviewing the tv show she was watching, she could tell them which scene was playing
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when she heard that gunshot. and that's how the kbi was able to determine the gun went off long before brett called 9-1-1. >> we believe it was about 30, 35 minutes prior to mr. seacat calling 9-1-1. was when she heard that gunshot. >> to do something? >> right. >> the atf's who discover the fire was not simply on the matter of lighting the bed on fire. >> was that where the fire was started? >> in my opinion, there were multiple fire started on the second floor of the residents. >> interesting. but it didn't rule out the possibility that vashti herself started the fires. >> there's a lot of things in limbo at that point. >> yes. but their suspicions pointed in one direction. towards brett seacat, who is going from grieving would or, to a serious person of interest. which is half brother bobby found preposterous. especially when it came to what the kbi thought was brett's
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suspicious behavior at the training center. as a former cop and cop trainer himself, bobby just knew his brother didn't do it. >> when you are in love law enforcement and you know about identity theft, those are things you do. you breaks unfolds and uber burn hard drives. not only was he well versed and identity theft, he was the substitute instructor of it. i think in hindsight, if he had known what was about to happen that very night, he wouldn't have thrown cellphones away. he wouldn't have burned hard drives. he would not have done anything, and especially would have spent the night in that house. >> because it would draw tension to him? >> absolutely. >> was it disappearances, or was it more than that? coming up -- >> things are not looking good it. looks like he has something to do with this, right. >> oh no, there is no way.
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okay? i didn't do this. >> anger, accusations -- >> did you murder her? >> no. >> did you pull the trigger? >> no. >> did you kill her? >> no. >> when dateline continues. >> when dateline continues.
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♪♪ i'm chi lan, i am a mom, and a real estate agent. after having a kid, everything that you used to do for yourself goes out the window. the lines that i was seeing in my forehead were getting deeper than i was used to them being. and i realized, you know, what i can focus again on myself. so, what do you see when you look at yourself? i see someone who is growing and changing, who loves and is loved. botox® cosmetic is fda approved to temporarily make frown lines, crow's feet and forehead lines look better. the effects of botox® cosmetic may spread hours to weeks after injection, causing serious symptoms. alert your doctor right away as difficulty swallowing, speaking, breathing, eye problems, or muscle weakness may be a sign of a life-threatening condition. do not receive botox® cosmetic if you have a skin infection. side effects may include allergic reactions,
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injection site pain, headache, eyebrow, eyelid drooping, and eyelid swelling. tell your doctor about your medical history, muscle or nerve conditions, and medications including botulinum toxins as these may increase the risk of serious side effects. see for yourself at when brett seacat arrived for that chat with investigators looking into the death of his wife, vashti, it was as if he
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could finally relax after the worst two weeks of his life. >> honestly, talking to you guys distracts me from all the thoughts that eat me up of late, so, actually, i do better in this room. >> i did little talking. i did very few questions. we basically just let mr. seacat go, and he talked for multiple hours. >> brett knew the rules, of course, had to know he was very much a person of interest, but he was content to chat back and forth for something like seven hours. didn't bring a lawyer with him. didn't ask for one. even when the investigators zeroed in on what they saw as holes in his story. >> things just aren't adding up. i think you know that. we just want to make sure we get all the facts right and get to the truth. >> tell me what you want to know. >> brett willingly answered almost every question they had, like why there was no real evidence on his body to back up his story about what he did the
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night vashti died. >> you had no blood on you when you supposedly picked her up in the bed and held her to you close. you had no blood -- >> no, i didn't hold her to me close -- >> you had no fire on the bottom of your feet. you should have some kind of injuries besides a small injury on the top of your feet. >> i don't know why the bottom of my feet aren't burned. i had some kind of weird black charring, but you guys have pictures of that. did i know that i stepped in any fire? i don't. >> the investigators were also starting to think that the note in the journal was forged. >> but to be honest with you, when i looked at that notebook, i'm going, this ain't right, because -- well, it slants one way part of the time. it slants one way part of the time. the ds were different -- >> looked like her handwriting to me, but it's not my handwriting. >> why on the friday before vashti died, besides destroying hard drives and cell phones, brett spent time in his office with his door locked, which was
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pretty unusual at the training center. >> oh, my god, you know i was locked? screw you. i was crying. >> you had the door locked and what was you looking at? >> my divorce papers. >> problem is, brett, you're in love. you're still in love with her. >> yeah, i am. >> and she was going to leave you. there was no doubt about that. >> that's not why you kill. >> well, some people do. >> you have no idea how impossible it is for me to kill her. >> but could he answer the central question, explain the thing that didn't make sense to anybody, why vashti, even if she was intent on suicide, why she would destroy the house, too? why set it on fire? >> she really did not like that house. we were going to have to fix it up, and we didn't particularly have the money or resources to fix it up. she started really hating that
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house. >> but at its heart, said brett, vashti's reason might well have had more to do with vanity. >> she was a very, very beautiful girl and only thought about what people would see. i think she might have shot herself and then assumed that her face would be really messed up, so she lit a fire and charred herself. >> sitting just a couple of feet away, agent falletti shook his head and said he didn't believe it. >> we asked him if he thought, if he was in my shoes interviewing me, and saw the things he saw and heard what he had told us, would he think that things just didn't add up? >> oh, god, man. >> but you see where i'm coming from, don't you? >> yeah, i see where you're coming from. i mean, this is 100 times worse than what i had pictured in my mind.
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before, i just thought i lacked any evidence. and now you're saying there's a lot of evidence that i never knew existed. >> well, it looks real bad. >> hard evidence. >> they're adding up to you had something to do with this, brett. we need to know why. >> oh, no. there's no why, okay? i didn't do this. i love vashti. >> i'm sure you did. i'm sure you still do. but people do things to people they love. >> i wouldn't [ bleep ] my kids like this, ever. i wouldn't [ bleep ] her family.
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i wouldn't [ bleep ] my family. i don't -- i didn't want to give up vash. i fought hard to try and keep us together. >> in fact, said brett, if he had murdered vashti, he'd have made a better job of it. >> i'm smart enough that if i wanted to kill my wife, it would have been a lot -- i could have come up with something better than this. this is [ bleep ] insane. this is what a crazy person does. >> no, not necessarily. crazy in love, crazy for his kids, yeah. >> don't try and twist it around. >> no, i'm not. >> then falletti got to the point. >> well, did you murder her? >> no! >> did you pull the trigger? >> no! >> did you kill her? >> no!
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>> brett left the station then, went to be with his boys, whatever his thoughts may have been, but not for long, because no matter how adamant brett's denials were, they just didn't add up to the kbi. however depressed brett said vashti was, it made no sense she would have lit the house on fire with her two sleeping sons in harm's way. the next day, brett seacat was taken into custody. he was formally charged three days later. >> brett t. seacat did then and there unlawfully, feloniously, intentionally, and with premeditation kill vashti s. seacat. your bond is $1 million. >> he was also charged with arson and endangering his children. brett could not make bond, and so, remained in jail. he would await a jury's decision about what really happened in the seacat home in kingman, kansas, in the early hours of april 30th, 2011. coming up, the note. >> some of his actions were reckless because the clock was
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winding down. >> the gun. >> how did it end up completely underneath her body when she was sleeping on her side? >> the threats. >> she said, "do you think brett would burn the house down with me in it?" and i was taken aback by that, and i said, "not with the kids at home." >> the prosecutors come on strong. >> and so, when those threats didn't work, he had to kill her to maintain control. >> when "dateline" continues. her cape. but when we realized she was battling sensitive skin, we switched to tide hygienic clean free. it's gentle on her skin, and out cleans our old free detergent. tide hygienic clean free. hypoallergenic and safe for sensitive skin.
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♪♪ as kingman coped with the tragedy in its midst, the smallest victims in the vashti and brett seacat story endured what horrors we cannot imagine. kathleen left her home in oklahoma to help care for vashti's young sons shortly after her sister died. and perhaps more than anyone, she was learning what violent death could do to a family. >> we held those babies all night. they would wake up. they were traumatized by the fire. so, to rock the little 2 1/2-year-old, begging you, please ask jesus, please, bring my mommy back. i'll be good. i need a mommy. that breaks your heart. and this went on for a long time at night, sobbing for hours. >> those poor kids. i mean, you're trying to process
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that mommy's gone forever. and these people over here think mommy killed herself and these people over here think my daddy shot my mommy? >> the trial to decide one way or the other finally began in may 2013, two years after the fire. two years in which the local media covered the case in a big way. >> it's looking like brett seacat will finally face trial for the death of vashti seacat. >> brett was entitled to ask to have his trial moved to another county, which might have been less saturated with news of the case against him, but he elected to keep it right here in kingman's historic courthouse, a mere two blocks from his ruined home. >> the defendant intentionally and with premeditation committed the murder of his wife, vashti seacat. >> but for all the talk that had been around town, that assistant attorney general amy hanley had precious little hard evidence to draw upon, not even an autopsy report to wave around, because the coroner hadn't labeled vashti's death a homicide. no, the evidence was not hard. it was circumstantial. in other words, hanley will be asking the jury to look at all the circumstances, then put two
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and two together. >> he got his magnum redhawk revolver. he approached her in bed while she was sleeping. he shot her in the head. he set fire to at least two places in the house to cover up his actions. and he did all of this while their two young sons, brendan and bronson seacat, were in the home. >> the motive? quite simple, said the prosecution -- brett did not want a divorce, but he did want custody of his sons, and he would do what it took, even kill vashti, to keep them. their marriage counselor took the stand. >> he said that he felt like vashti was going to run. he could just feel it, that she was going to leave him, and that if she divorced him, she was divorcing the entire seacat
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family, including the children, and that he would take the children and she would never see them, even if it meant leaving the country. so, i told him it was not legal, that it wasn't going to help the children, it would hurt them a great deal, that they needed access to both their parents. >> did you talk to him about divorced couples having two households? >> yes. >> and what was brett's comments about that? >> he said he'd seen children of divorce, and he didn't think it was worse for them to have just one parent or one household. he thought it was better. >> and as for brett's claim that vashti died by suicide, the therapist said she didn't believe it for a second. >> i asked her whether she would commit suicide, and she said, no, for two reasons. one, her religious beliefs and her faith. and the second was she couldn't do that for her boys. she just loved being a mom.
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she couldn't leave them. they needed her. >> the prosecutors showed the jury a photo of the contents of vashti's purse, which contained that post-it note listing various costs, including funeral expenses. >> vashti seacat, as all of her friends and family testified, was a very organized person, as both a mother and in her career at work. and that list is simply somebody planning out what they might do in their future when they're going to get divorced, which we know vashti seacat was doing. >> prosecutors also showed jurors the powerpoint papers found on the dining room table, the presentation about homicide, suicides, and fire. true, brett was a law enforcement trainer, said the prosecutor, but those were not his subjects. >> he was not teaching arson.
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he wasn't teaching homicide. he wasn't teaching wound evidence. >> no. what those materials proved, said the prosecutor, was premeditation. it was brett's deadly homework. but what about that last entry in her journal, the one that read like a final farewell? forged, said the state, by brett. thing is, said the handwriting expert, it wasn't well done. look closely, he said. that slight shakiness? he called that -- >> the term we use in document is tremor of fraud. >> the tremor of fraud. and it appeared, said the prosecution, that brett forged that note the day before vashti died, the same day he was torching hard drives, the same day he asked a staff member at the training center where he could find an overhead projector, something so outdated, it was in storage. the prosecutor said it appeared brett used the projection light to recreate vashti's writing in
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the journal. >> some of his actions were reckless because the clock was winding down. >> vashti had told brett he could stay in the house until noon sunday. the prosecutor said she was planning to go out saturday evening in wichita and spend the night there. >> well, it's friday. it's friday evening. this was his last opportunity while they lived in the home together to kill vashti. >> then there was the lack of evidence where there should have been some, if this were a suicide, that is. >> did you find any soot in the airways? >> no. >> any soot in the lungs? >> no. >> the autopsy finding that vashti seacat had no soot in her lungs, in her airways, and that there was no carbon monoxide in her blood, that was a key piece of evidence for the prosecution, because what it showed, what the jury could infer from that was
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that vashti seacat didn't breathe in any smoke. and if she didn't breathe in any smoke, the fire was set after -- >> after she was dead. >> -- she was dead. >> and something else -- weird little detail. and yet, according to the prosecution, it was telling. when she died, vashti's bladder was quite full. >> there probably would have been a urinary urgency or the needing to go to the restroom. >> and the importance of that for the evidence is that the claim from brett seacat is that vashti is walking around the house setting these fires, holding her breath, not breathing any smoke while she has a strong urge to urinate. that doesn't make sense. that's something that the jury needed to decide whether or not in their common sense and experience, whether they thought that made any sense at all. >> just another point to add to the unlikelihood of this whole story that he was telling. >> that's right. >> the claimed suicide weapon didn't make sense either, said the prosecutor.
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.44 magnum ruger redhawk? such a heavy gun. >> if she killed herself, how was she able to get that heavy handgun up to her head and pull the trigger and do so in just the right downward angle that it slices right through her spinal cord? and if there was some kick, some recoil to the gun, how did it end up completely underneath her body when she was sleeping on her side? >> the prosecutor said the angle of the bullet proved one thing. >> that's consistent with someone standing over her while she was sleeping, shooting her. >> because, said the prosecutor, because that's what he said he would do. brett not only woke vashti up one night to tell her he had a dream that he killed her, but friends and colleagues testified about what they told the kbi, that in the weeks before she
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died, vashti told them that, incredibly, brett threatened to kill her and burn the house down and make it look like suicide. >> she said, "do you think brett would burn the house down with me in it?" and i -- i was taken aback by that. i said, "not with the kids at home." >> tragedy was, said the prosecutor, vashti didn't believe him, either. >> and so, when those threats didn't work, he had to kill her to maintain control of her. >> in other words, said the prosecutor, planned, premeditated murder. looks bad for brett, doesn't it? but then, you haven't heard the bombshell the defense had in store. coming up -- >> vashti had confided in brett that she had rekindled a romantic relationship that she was having with one of the executives at cox communication. >> an affair. that wasn't the only surprise ahead. >> what other mistakes did they make? there's something about the investigation that stinks. >> when "dateline" continues.
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i'm dara brown. here is what's happening. a review prompted by the collapse of the condominium in surfside, florida, has led to the evacuation of another building in north miami beach. residents of the 156-unit crest view towers packed up their belongings after they were told the building was structurally and electronically unsafe.
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meanwhile, elsa is now the first category 1 storm of the season. it's now headed to the u.s. and expected to hit florida early next week. now back to "dateline." brett seacat, unable to pay a lawyer to represent him, was lucky in one particular way -- his court-appointed defense attorneys just happened to be veterans of murder cases. val wachtel and roger faulk, who opened. >> my grandmother used to love to put together jigsaw puzzles. >> a man who understood perfectly well that the puzzle didn't always go together the way the prosecution tried to make it look. >> there's a second side to this story, and that is that vashti seacat, depressed and confronted with either losing her career or
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staying in the marriage, decided instead to take her own life. >> but why would she do that? here came the bombshell. >> vashti had confided in brett that she had rekindled a romantic relationship that she was having with one of the executives at cox communication. >> vashti, claimed the defense, was having an affair with a cox vice president. and the evening before vashti died, brett gave her an ultimatum -- stay in the marriage or he'd expose her affair. that threat, along with brett's vow to take the children, said the defense, were the triggers that sent an already depressed woman over the edge. >> she suffered from absolute depression. what can depression lead you to, among the various things that
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can go wrong? suicide is one. >> under cross examination by attorney wachtel, the seacats' therapist revealed vashti had a history of depressive symptoms, starting when her brother died in an accident when she was young. >> major depressive disorder would be that occurring more than once, for a longer period of time, possibly in a pattern. >> and with regard to what you wrote down regarding mrs. seacat, would you describing an episode or a disorder? >> i was describing that this was an episode, but there had been others prior. >> a lot of folks think that if you were depressed a week ago, but you ain't been depressed since, you are cured. now, i got the expert to say that isn't the way it works. >> nor is it possible to
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anticipate if or when the depressed person might take their own life, admitted the therapist. even when someone is making future plans, as vashti was, suicide is still possible, the defense argued. mind you, they're about to say it also wouldn't have been the first time for vashti, or at least, brett was ready to claim she had attempted suicide before. >> brett wanted to testify about the suicide attempts that vashti had made on herself, some while they were married, some before. judge said, well, show me the evidence of this. and we had looked and looked and looked and could not find hospital records -- >> you looked high and low, couldn't find anything. >> couldn't find hospital records that far back. but that should be no surprise to anybody because hospitals don't keep records anymore. >> even so, by judge's order, brett would not be allowed to make that claim in court. and what about the post-it note found in vashti's purse, the one that listed funeral expenses? >> it could very well be that that is her figuring out what things cost and whether or not insurance is going to cover it. that's what i think it could be. >> but who -- >> who knows?
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nobody knows. prosecution doesn't know. i don't know. >> but it has some significance, you think? >> well, you certainly could portray it as being significant, right? you could also portray it as being a load of hogwash. >> right. but remember how the prosecution argued that vashti's suicide note found in her journal was a forgery, probably committed by brett? the defense had a handwriting expert of its own who concluded that vashti did, in fact, write the note. and brett asking for that overhead projector at work hours before vashti died, attorney wachtel cross-examined brett's co-worker the one who helped him find it. >> and mr. seacat was not the least bit secretive when he asked you this question. >> no, he was not. >> he goes and asks someone to help him find an overhead projector? those people take him up to where he is. he carries it down from there in full view of anybody who is
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possibly in that place, and he carries it back. now, that sounds like somebody who didn't have anything to hide. >> and what about the state's point that no soot was found in vashti's lungs? under cross examination, the coroner allowed that it could be possible under the defense scenario that vashti lit a fire just before killing herself. >> if someone lit a fire and shot themselves within seconds, would you expect to see soot in their lungs? >> not necessarily, no. >> as for the powerpoint found on the seacats' table, the one that discussed homicide and suicide and fire investigations, meaningless, said the defense. >> what the prosecution would have you assume, right, is that this really, really smart cop was stupid enough to be looking at all of this stuff the night he tries to burn the house down? please. i certainly wouldn't try to hide
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evidence by setting a house four blocks from the fire department on fire and praying, right, that they would not get there until the whole thing had burned to the ground. that's silly. it's just silly. >> what's more, brett said, most of the powerpoint printout had been in a tray in another room, as scrap paper, but the kbi must have moved those papers to the table, just to make it look suspicious, like they made brett's use of an overhead projector suspicious and his destroying cell phones and computer hard drives seem suspicious. it's all too ridiculous, said the defense. >> so, the state wanted you to believe that he was trying to destroy evidence of the crime. what evidence did he try to destroy? they never said what evidence he
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tried to destroy. now, this guy is such a super criminal that, where does he go to destroy that? he goes to the kansas law enforcement training center, which is full of what? former cops. and he gets somebody to help him destroy those things. now, if you wanted to destroy those things, there are innumerable farm ponds. if you wanted to get rid of that, you throw it into a farm pond and nobody will ever find it. >> in fact, the state's whole investigation, said the defense, was at beast incompetent, maybe worse. brett and attorney wachtel claimed that vashti's car disappeared from the crime scene for three days, even though the whole seacat yard was supposed to have been sealed off, a crime scene. they showed the jury a series of photos taken from different vantage points, which the defense argued made it look like the car had been moved in the days after the fire. this neighbor lived right across the street from the seacat driveway. >> when you first observed the driveway, was the volkswagen there? >> no. >> it was not? >> no. >> do you remember seeing it in
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that driveway ever again? >> three days later. >> three days later. but you didn't see -- if i understand your testimony, you didn't see anybody bring it back. >> no. >> i think he was telling the truth. if i thought he was lying, i wouldn't have put him on. to me, it implies that the investigation itself is faulty. how do you let somebody get into the crime scene and drive it away? >> so, it was either gross incompetence or intentional. >> in my opinion, it would be both. and if that happened, then what other mistakes did they make? there's something about the investigation that stinks. >> just smelled bad, said wachtel, that the state claimed it found gasoline on brett's pants, when the defense expert
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said -- >> i would not make a determination that it's gasoline. >> and maybe worst of all, he said the kansas bureau of investigation did not even bother checking for gunshot residue on brett's hands, test, which the defense claimed, would have revealed if he actually fired that gun that night -- >> if you have ever seen what that gun looks like, everything comes out of the side of that cylinder. >> right. >> so, that stuff goes somewhere. and onto your skin is where you're looking for it at, yet -- >> they didn't look. >> they didn't look. but he's a cop. they're a cop. >> brett seacat doesn't have much faith in the kbi. >> the defense will call brett t. seacat to the witness stand. >> but the star witness for the defense would be the last witness, brett seacat himself. coming up -- cold-blooded killer or grieving husband? >> i didn't think it was appropriate to be dragging my wife's name through the mud. >> did you love vashti? >> i love vashti. >> did you kill vashti? >> no, i did not. >> brett's story from the stand, his life on the line.
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>> in my heart of hearts, i know that it wouldn't have made any difference what anybody said to brett because brett wanted to testify. >> when "dateline" continues. this past year has felt like a long, long norwegian winter. but eventually, with spring comes rebirth. everything begins anew. and many of us realize a fundamental human need to connect with other like-minded people.
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welcome back to the world. viking. exploring the world in comfort... once again.
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you may come forward and be sworn, please, sir. >> it is, call it unusual, for a defendant to testify at his own murder trial. dangerous, his lawyer might advise, to subject himself to the objective questions of a skilled prosecutor, but -- >> in my hearts of hearts, i know that it wouldn't have made any difference what anybody said to brett because brett wanted to testify. he wanted to. he had to. he believed that if people just listened, the truth would out. >> mr. seacat, will you tell us your full name, please? >> brett theodore seacat.
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>> at his own request, no video was taken of him. audio recording only. as brett set out with confidence to tell the jury what happened, beginning 21 hours or so before the fire. >> on that morning, when i said good-bye, she said, "see you tonight" and actually gave me a big kiss, which i thought was odd. >> why'd you think that was odd? >> um, because in the last week, week and a half, we had been back and forth about 50 times on divorce. and so, it just let me know that we were back on the not-divorce track. >> but by the time he returned to the house that evening, said brett, things had changed. >> i couldn't figure out why she was -- she was in a big hurry to get a divorce, which was something that had never
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happened before. i told her, we haven't really worked on our marriage very much. my angle in the discussion was, i'll give you a collaborative divorce, if we work on the marriage for three to six months. >> brett said vashti seemed to agree to that, especially when he made it clear what he'd do if she went forward with the divorce right then. >> basically, i told her, if this goes to court, that i was going to do everything, everything in my power to destroy her. >> brett told the jury things he never told the kbi investigators, that he threatened to share private photos of her and that vashti had several recent affairs, including one with the executive
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at cox, and that brett threatened to expose her. as for why he didn't tell the kbi earlier about those alleged affairs -- >> i didn't think it was appropriate to be dragging my wife's name through the mud. >> as it was, brett and his defense team didn't put on any evidence about an affair with the cox executive or with anybody, for that matter. and then his lawyer finished with the key questions. >> did you love vashti? >> i love vashti. >> did you kill vashti? >> no, i did not. >> did you pull the trigger on the ruger redhawk that resulted in the bullet going through her neck and severing her spine? >> no, i did not. >> so, his direct testimony, hours of it, seemed to go pretty well. but now, of course, here came
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the prosecutors to put him on the spot. >> cross examination. ms. hanley. >> she wanted brett to explain how it was possible for him to do what she thought was impossible, make that 911 call and stay on the phone while trying to get vashti's body out of a burning house. >> my wife is upstairs! i'm about to go upstairs and try to get her out. oh, there's smoke everywhere! just a second. i have to get a rag. >> how he was able to make that call and talk to a dispatcher while he was supposedly running up and down the stairs twice in smoke, in fire, wetting a rag, holding onto his phone. how he didn't drop the phone, fall, cough, gasp. >> turn the water faucet on, grabbed the dish cloth. >> yes, ma'am. >> you're holding your cell phone, too? >> i don't think i'm holding it to my ear, but it's certainly still in my hand. >> well, you're talking to 911 at this time, right? >> you're correct. it must have been to my ear. i just don't remember that element of it. >> and then she asked him about the divorce. >> vashti wanted the divorce, right?
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>> depends on which ten minutes you talked to her. >> and when she told you that she was thinking about divorce, that when you would threaten her. >> i'm sorry? >> when vashti told you she wanted a divorce, you'd threaten her, wouldn't you? >> no, vashti never -- we talked about divorce a lot, but the first time that i found out vashti wanted a divorce was when she told me that she had filed. >> and then, then, point blank, she accused him of murder. >> you threatened to kill vashti, burn the house down, and make it look like she committed a suicide. >> i absolutely have never said anything even remotely like that. >> you never made that threat to vashti? >> absolutely not. >> you killed your wife, didn't you? >> no, ma'am. >> you shot her in the head. >> impossible. >> you burnt the house down
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around her. >> i would never burn our house. >> and you did it while your two kids, 2 years and 4 years old, were in the house. >> absolutely not. i would never expose my children to any situation like that. >> the investigation was thorough in this case, and the kbi agents looked for any sign that would lead us to a different conclusion than that brett seacat killed his wife. and all of the evidence that was uncovered and all of the evidence presented at trial by both sides led to that conclusion. >> vashti's family was upset about things brett said on the stand about vashti's character, but they said they found his testimony revealing. >> i was almost embarrassed that he was still claiming he was innocent when there were just so many things that would have had to have lined up perfectly, that
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would have had to have been a fluke. >> but brett's brother, bobby, felt the trial only confirmed what he had always believed. >> i left that courtroom 100% convinced that he didn't do it. >> up to the jury now. >> your head's spinning at that point, because you realize, this is it. and it was scary. coming up -- double drama in the courtroom. the verdict. >> ladies and gentlemen, have you reached a verdict? >> yes, we have, your honor. >> and something even the judge never saw coming, when "dateline" continues. so with your home & auto bundle, you'll save money and get round-the-clock protection. -sounds great. -sure does. shouldn't something, you know, wacky be happening right now? we thought people could use a break. we've all been through a lot this year. -that makes sense. -yeah. so... ♪♪ now's not a good time 3/5ths of nsync. are you sure? you have us booked all day. -read the room, guys. -yeah.
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there's no rule of thumb, nothing that works, anyway, to allow a person to successfully predict a jury's verdict based on the time it takes to make it. brett seacat's jury deliberated six hours. what did that mean? brother bobby was nervous, of course, but had a good feeling. >> i think that the state in every respect failed to prove and make their case. >> ladies and gentlemen, have you reached a verdict? >> yes, we have, your honor. >> we, the jury, find the defendant, brett t. seacat, guilty of murder in the first degree. >> guilty on all counts. the reaction in the courtroom was muted. >> it was a strange mixture of emotions, because there was this part of you that thought, when
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they say "guilty," i'm just going to get all this off my chest and i'm going to feel good. but then there's this big part of you that realizes, at the end of the day, it didn't bring her back. >> the truth is, everybody was just as hurt. no one won. so, you think, why am i not feeling better? because what got better? he is behind bars, and he needs to be behind bars. but the lives that it affected will forever be affected. >> lawyer val wachtel all but said, "i knew it," because -- >> i don't think mr. seacat got a fair trial in kingman, kansas, and i will never think that. >> but it was brett who insisted on being tried in his hometown and in his lawyer's view, he paid the price. >> and i'm certainly not blaming the jury, right? it just -- to me, it became
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patently obvious that this jury did not exactly look kindly upon mr. seacat. >> it was going to be an uphill battle. >> it was an uphill battle before we even got started. >> but agent falletti saw things very differently indeed. >> i believe mr. seacat believed that whole house was going to go up in flames and law enforcement and fire were not going to find very much there, and that he knew this local police department, and they probably would just think it was what he said it was and gone about their business. but the kingman police department and the sheriff's office called in other agencies to assist. >> right. >> and, fortunately for vashti and her family, we were able to find evidence to convict him of these charges. >> but brett seacat is an unusual man, adamant that he is innocent, certain that he was set up by the state, which was out to get him, by in-laws who didn't like him, and even by the judge. in fact, particularly the judge, which became abundantly clear at brett's sentencing, when
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seemingly out of the blue, brett lashed out with a truly remarkable, incendiary, venomous attack against judge solomon. >> this day belongs to you, judge solomon. this is your day. this is the day you get to take your place in front of the cameras and pass sentence on a man you worked so hard to convict, a man you know was innocent but a man you had to help convict so you could get this day, your day. so go ahead and collect the 30 pieces of silver, judge solomon. go ahead and sell custody of my little boys to vashti's family. go ahead and pass sentence you think will land you a spot on the kansas supreme court. go ahead and pass the sentence that guarantees your spot in hell, just like amy hanley, jeff newsum and those 12 jurors, you are going to hell for what you've done in this case. your corrupt decisions will bring an appeal. the evidence will be presented, and i will be freed. and with that, i'll step aside and let you have your day.
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after all, you purchased it with your soul, so you've earned it. >> what did you make of that, of his statement? >> i like the fact that he said what he thought. when you believe you are innocent, why not say you are innocent? why not say what you think was wrong? say it, because it isn't going to make any difference. >> did it? here's how the judge responded. >> i heard a few things i didn't anticipate. i won't bother addressing them, because they're so bizarre, they don't deserve a response. they merely affirm to me that a jury of 12 kingman county citizens made the appropriate decision in this case. you claim to be vashti's protector, and in the next breath on the stand said the
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evening in question you would destroy her. at trial, you've made every effort possible to drag her name and her memory and her reputation through the mud. vashti was not indecisive about divorcing you. she was not depressed, and she was not suicidal. the families hit it on the head. so did several witnesses at trial, about you being arrogant, about you being controlling, about you being self-centered and narcissistic. you live in some sort of bizarre, alternate reality. you haven't admitted guilt. you haven't admitted responsibility. and you didn't this morning even express remorse that vashti's no longer on this earth.
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>> and with that, he sentenced brett seacat to the maximum allowed under kansas law. he'll serve 30 years before his first shot at parole. and now, now their once graceful home has been torn down. the reputation of brett's family, a family of lawmen, is tarnished. the seacats' sons are growing up without either parent and will have the heavy burden of knowing their father was convicted of killing their mother, vashti, the woman named for a queen. >> i miss her every day, you know. just dumb things like seeing a dragonfly or fireworks or something. it will not go away. i hope that i figure out what my new life is going to look like at some point and i can accept it, but with time, they say it gets better.
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i just think -- i just hope it does. i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." >> how am i doing right now? if i had to put it into one word -- numb would be the closest. >> she was a young actress starring in the role of a lifetime. a mystery. >> you never heard a gunshot? >> no. >> one of her friends was dead. >> there's been a bodice covered in sam's apartment. >> it's so hard. she was 23. >> another friend was missing, and wanted. >> you've got a dead woman in his apartment. this guy is poll


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