Dateline   |  October 11, 2013

'Burning Suspicion' part 2

Investigators try to determine the cause of the fire and of Vashti's death.

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

>>> the sun rose over grief and chaos that last morning of april 2011 . in little kingman, kansas. vashti seacat was dead, her house burned around her and a husband and two little boys were just beginning to understand what had happened to them. the cannot believe it stage just like siblings, kathleen and rich.

>> like i believed somehow it wasn't true. you plea with god or you just want a miracle to happen.

>> no miracles to be had. that might have been the end of it really, an awful tragedy, but these things do happen and for all but loved ones are soon forgotten by the rest of the world . except those volunteer firemen weren't quite sure what they were dealing with. so they took the step and called in the state fire marl, the atf, the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms.

>> we get a lot more training and exposure to the scientific side of things.

>> that morning, atf agent doug monty showed up to have a look around.

>> if you look at it from the front of the house, all you really noticed was the fact that part of the roof had collapsed as you made your way around back, there was very, very heavy fire damage to include collapse of the second and third floor, which is significant.

>> really the front facade was up and the rest was badly damaged?

>> it wasn't down, anybody going by could tell a significant fire this h. occurred.

>> you heard there was a body inside. did you hear anything else about it?

>> normally when i arrive at a scene like that, i'll arrive with the on-scene investigators, the fire chief , local officers and they had informed me that, as the first arriving officer got there, he made contact with brett seacat and he indicated that his wife was inside.

>> they also told him that when the first responders arrived, the windows in the master bedroom were still intact, which would have tamped down the fire inside the room where vashti was last seen. there was some chance at least that some evidence would still exist in there. wouldn't be completely incinerated by the flames. sure enough, when monty got inside what was left of the house, he saw the body of vashti seacat lying on the mattress of the master bedroom on the second floor.

>> she was on her left side, her knees slightly drawn up. it appeared that her elbows were bent. there was still a significant amount of blank etd or covering on her or covers like she was asleep under the covers.

>> also there, a weapon.

>> the firearm was actually under her left hip, which would have 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 her lower skull. there were other wounds, too. oddly enough, you can hear gunshots going off during the fire in that cell phone video shot by a passerby. and to be agent monty, when the hot fire exploded the remaining bullets in the gun sending bullets into vashti 's body. and something else that courtesy of those unblown windows, didn't burn up completely.

>> we noticed a red plastic container very close to her 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 and cause of the fire and to classify it, whether it was accidental, whether we couldn't determine a cause or whether it was incendiary or someone intentionally set the fire .

>> that certainly would make a suggestion, wouldn't it?

>> that would be an indicator, yes, sir.

>> 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 panicy call to 911.

>> she shot herself but she's in the fire.

>> but why would a mother of two little boys kill herself? that was a story only her widower, brett seacat ,