Dateline   |  October 12, 2013

'Burning Suspicion' part 6

As investigators collect evidence, Brett becomes a person of interest in Vashti's death.

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

>>> it's not always so straightforward determining from evidence what's 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 or fire -- 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. in this instance, justice will be served.

>> what did that mean? as another investigator told them --

>> justice will be served and maybe justice is he didn't do it. we don't have emotions in this. we are here to collect facts.

>> and collect they did. including a bit of unburned material on the dining room table in the seacat home. quite odd.

>> it was actually a power point that included almost like an instructor would be teaching a class on different types of death. suicides, homicide, i believe was listed on there, fire, blunt force trauma , things of that, that an officer or investigator would be looking at when they're investigating a death of some sort.

>> that might make sense if he's a teacher or policeman.

>> individually, that probably could be looked at as that.

>> in fact, said brett , that's exactly what it was.

>> it was paperwork that he brought home from school or from class that he had taken, i believe, in college and it was scrap paper. he had pulled it in there because on the night before the morning she passed away , they had been working on a budget and we did find it looked like somebody was preparing a budget together. they had separate accounts and he was trying to show he could help her out in paying off some of these bills.

>> that was in the activity in the evening before she died. it was kind of a cooperative activity.

>> according to mr. seacat , yes.

>>> also brett said when he ran into the best of your knowledge bedroom to try to save vashti , he was only wearing pants, no shirt who shoes. so --

>> i would expect to see some type of injury to fire. all we ended up finding when we photographed him later was very, very minor singing on his legs from hair. you get more than that if you're lighting a barbecue pit and you singe yourself. he had a couple of minor blisters on one of his feet. if he bent over a bed that was on fire, i would expect some typho type of singing.

>> they found gasoline on the pants he was wearing. suspicious? maybe. but proof of murder, staging the scene in not even close. there was an autopsy, of course. the results of which could be seen as suspicious or not.

>> there was no soot in her airway or in her lungs.

>> that would indicate there were no breaths taken prior to the fire kind of getting into --

>> fire was lit after she was dead.

>> you could make that assumption.

>> is it possible she could have poured the accelerant around the house, lit them all, hopped back into bed, covered herself up, shot herself and then died and still had no soot in the lungs? the fires are just getting started.

>> it's possible. if she's made that decision to go to that length, i would expect that she would be very excited, her respirations would be very rapid and so she would be breathing heavy.

>> there would be something in her lungs, some kind of indication?

>> that would be my experience. i've worked multiple fatality fires over the years.

>>> but atf investigators opinion aside, facts are facts and the coroner said there 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 co-workers 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 a torch to basically -- settling torch that burns at a high temperature. he used that to torch the hard drives .

>> and then threw them away. two different trash cans along with a couple of cell phones which he had first pulled apart. troubling. on the other hand, wasn't like he was skulking around or hiding the unusual activity, he even asked 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 and so was awake in the wee hours watching tv in her living room .

>> and at some point she believes she heard what was a gunshot and she believed that was sometime before the fire trucks and the police officers showed up in front of the seacat residence.

>> exactly when each of those things happened, she wouldn't say for sure. but reviewing the tv show she had been watching, she could tell them which scene was playing 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 believed it was about 30, 35 minutes prior to mr. seacat calling 911 is when she heard that gunshot.

>> to do something.

>> right.

>> the atf monty said it was not simply a matter of lighting the bed on fire. was that where the fire was started?

>> in my opinion, there were multiple fires started on the second floor of the residence.

>> 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. toward brett seacat , who was going from grieving, guilt-ridden widower to a serious person of interest. which his half-brother bobby found preposterous, especially when it came to what the kbi thought was brett 's 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 law enforcement and you know about identity theft , those are things you do. you break cell phones and you burn hard drives . not only was he well-versed in identity theft , he was a 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 cell phones away. he wouldn't have burned hard drives . he would not have done anything, and he especially wouldn't have spent the night in that house.

>> because it would draw attention to him, make him look guilty?

>> absolutely.

>> was it just appearances or was it more than that?