Dateline   |  October 11, 2013

'Burning Suspicion' part 1

A young wife and mother, Vashti Seacat, is found dead after a house fire in a small Kansas town. What happened?

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a.m., a week into crescent moon , struggled to penetrate the night here in the middle of america. kingman, kansas, population 3,000, was asleep. except on a quiet residential street a woman unable to sleep watched a crime show on tv. was that popping noise she heard coming from somewhere in the neighborhood or was it her tv show ? or just a remnant of the windy day around her windowsill? the silent night closed in again, april 30 , 2011 , tornado season . oh, and there was a storm that night. the whirlwind even then sweeping all of them into its vortex. but it began not with wind, with fire.

>> 911. do you have an emergency?

>> yes. what's the problem? calm down.

>> there's a fire.

>> 3:51 a.m ., the man on the phone 911 was frantic, out of breath.

>> my wife is --

>> here is the actual video of kingman's one officer on duty that night running to his police car and speeding to the burning house where he met the 911 caller outside. you can hear them both recorded by his patrol car 's dashboard video camera .

>> the man said his wife was still in the master bedroom in the back of the house, second floor. and if that was true, didn't look good for her. a passerby 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 calmed down a little, he told the officer he was able only to rescue his 2 and 4-year-old sons, carry them to safety. so somewhere in there his wife, their mother, was dead. there was more to his story as you'll hear. much more. but for now, the dismal business of sorting out what happened. so where to begin? the man on street said his wife's name was vashti , vashti seacat .

>> it was out of the bible, there was a queen vashti . my dad thought the name was neat so they named her vashti .

>> her sister lived three hours away. neither she nor her brother rich could believe what they heard.

>> the first thing i did was call the kingman county sheriff's department just to verify.

>> did they help you? did they tell you anything?

>> first they asked who i was and i explained my relationship to vashti . and he said yeah, there's been a fire and we believe she's deceased.

>> and the man standing outside his burning house, that was vashti 's husband, brett seacat , her very first love.

>> they met in high school . she did some stats for a team and he was a wrestler. first little love in 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 holds a special place in your life.

>> but by dawn on the 30th of april 2011 , though as you'll hear brett certainly knew what to do in a crisis, there was nothing he or anyone could do to get it back. the life he had with vashti and their two boys, now motherless boys, brandon born in fall of 2006 , bronson less than two years later.

>> when they had their babies, it was a very happy time . my sister was mother of the year award goes to her.

>> at 4:00 in the morning, she would get up and hand make baby food .

>> wow.

>> 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, something, and she stayed up and baked mini loaves of banana breads and sold those to raise money for that boy to have treatment.

>> what was brett like as a dad?

>> he did lots of things with the kids. he did walks with them. he would play outside with them. he was very engaged as a dad. he was very proud of his sons.

>> brett was a law man from a family of lawmen. a former sheriff's deputy and for the last few years, he had been teaching officer recruits of all types at the kansas law enforcement training center where bobby seacat , one of his brothers, worked before him.

>> he was hired to replace me when i left there.

>> so what was the job, teaching what?

>> brett got into the accident investigation and collision investigation, but he was much more into physical training and defense tactics than i ever was.

>> had more interest in that kind of thing?

>> he did.

>> personal combat type of thing?

>> he did. growing up. he got into martial arts . he was into wrestling in high school . and then got into bodybuilding, martial arts things. he was a lot bigger than i was.

>> the training center job gave brett a set schedule with regular hours, which was a welcome change from being a deputy sheriff, especially with the two boys clamoring for his attention at home.

>> he was close to the boys but he was very masculine with the boys. it was, raise them as boys. they were tough, they wrestled a lot. he would wrestle with them. he'd toss them across the room on to the couch and they'd bounce off the couch and run right back to be tossed again.

>> a terrible thing to happen to such a beautiful young family. even if the fire was all you heard about it. but now brett seacat headed to the local law enforcement center a few blocks away. and there he repeated to fellow law enforcement officers something he had said on the 911 call. that the fire was not what killed vashti seacat .