Dateline   |  October 12, 2013

'Burning Suspicion' part 3

Vashti's husband, Brett, tells investigators Vashti set the house on fire and killed herself.

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

>>> fire is a terrible thing to happen to a family. but fire was only half of the deadly event that ruptured the seacat family of kingman, kansas. this was a fire and a shooting. apparently, both the suicidal work of vashti seacat . and because it occurred in a small, rural county, it triggered a call to the kbi. the statewide kansas bureau of investigation , whose special agent dave poe let i welcomed a chance to hear what happened directly from brett seacat himself.

>> brett , remember, was in law enforcement himself and understood that the agent needed to hear the whole story, warts and all.

>> we interviewed him for approximately 7 1/2 hours. just two cops talking to each other.

>> seemed to be forthcoming?

>> very forthcoming.

>> i just want to talk about what happened. i know there's been a terrible time for you.

>> the agent was about to discover that brett was dealing not just with grief but with a heavy burden of guilt, though it took a while to get to that part of the story.

>> when we interview people, i want to start at the very beginning and we did.

>> brett told them the story of 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 what people thought about her. almost to the point of nerosis i always thought.

>> maybe that's why in recent years she was paying way too much attention to her job, even when she was home.

>> she was dedicated to her job and i always thought that that took away from her time with the kids because the kids and i may be playing in the living room and she'd be in the office working.

>> but vashti was depressed, had been for a long time. something almost no one else knew.

>> he had informed us that vashti was basically two vashtis. one face for her family and the public and a different person at home.

>> so that brett knew and nobody else ?

>> right.

>> she would get depressed over something. but she would never talk to anybody about being depressed because she was -- she was always worried about how people would view her. and even as her boyfriend, as her husband, the only reason i ever even got exposed to it is because i was the guy that spent the nights with her.

>> things got so bad, brett said, her depression was affecting their marriage. they started seeing a therapist. he also told investigators that to help her lose weight, vashti took a hormonal supplement, hcg, 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 gun 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 ruger magnum that they had, would be a better tool to do that with.

>> so he looked back on it then in the interview with you as oh, my gosh, i told her how to kill herself?

>> right.

>> but it got even worse , said brett . when vashti told him, to 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 --

>> you and i will go to the mat and i made it perfectly clear whether it was truthful or not, that if this went to court, i was going to do everything i could to make sure 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.

>> anyway, i answer it. she said, are you awake? you need to come get the boys.

>> brett said he jumped up and heard a loud noise.

>> sounded like somebody just hauled off and slammed the door closed as hard as they could.

>> then he heard what sounded like somebody walking around on the second floor and he bounded up the stairs to the bedroom.

>> i remember that clearly now. and there were small flames around the door. the flames were about that high off the ground.

>> then he said, he ran into the master bedroom .

>> the bed was on fire. and where the whole room could have 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 vashti 's right shoulder and around her neck.

>> pulled her up and she sank down like waffled in my arms down straight. not like somebody getting picked up. then all of a sudden it sort of came to me. death, fire kids. i just dropped her.

>> he ran to the boys' room, scooped them up. and ran downstairs and called 9-1-1 and ran back into the house to get vashti . he covered his face with a wet discloth he said and ran back up the stairs.

>> by the time i get to the top of the stairs, it's pitch black . i can't see anything. not even my hand in front of my face. i told them --

>> and now vashti was dead and brett couldn't stop wondering, he told the agent, wondering if she was thinking about the kids as she prepared to end her life.

>> i have a question for her. did mommy say bye or did mommy tuck you in and say night night or say goodbye was the big one. because she did love those kids. and i could see her going in there and kissing each one of them good night.

>> brett said he explained to the boys, especially the older one, that mommy is in heaven now, that she's with god.

>> we talk about that every night right before bed.

>> and here, cop to cop, it was as if brett seacat was in a confessional booth. sorrow for threatening to take away the boys, the trigger, he was sure, for her suicide. did he seem remorseful about having said that?

>> yes, he did. he showed remorse that he had driven her to commit suicide . he had given her no other out other than to take her own life.