Hours after a Kansas jury found Brett Seacat guilty of the first-degree murder of his wife Vashti Seacat, her mother revealed that she begged her daughter not to serve the former cop with divorce papers, fearing that might set him off.
“I begged her those last two months not to serve him papers, to just separate and let him get acclimated, to move in with us. And her words were, ‘I don’t want to endanger your lives,’” Julie Hostetler told HLN’s Nancy Grace Tuesday in an exclusive interview.
Vashti Seacat’s mother and brother said the verdict -- delivered after the jury deliberated for six hours -- brought a sense of relief to the family.
“It was a little surreal,” Hostetler said Tuesday night, just hours after the verdict was announced. “I felt justice had been done, and I felt like the boys were safe.”
The jury also convicted Seacat of one count of aggravated arson and two counts of endangering a child -- Seacat’s two young boys were inside the home when he set the fire, but they managed to escape unharmed.
Three days before she was murdered, Vashti Seacat served her husband with divorce papers. Prosecutors said that filled the former cop with uncontrollable rage, culminating in a murder plot. But the defense claimed that Vashti was depressed and started the fire herself before committing suicide.
“Brett liked to control every aspect of everything he did. I think that came out in the trial, that he was controlling and manipulative. And by her filing for divorce, she had taken the power out of his hands, and he couldn't deal with the loss of control,” Richard Forrest, Vashti Seacat’s brother, told Grace.
“This was the first time he had been served,” Hostetler said. “They had talked about [the problems in their marriage], and he had always agreed to work on it. This time, her words to us, [were] ‘He will know that I am through this time by what I say.’ And he was a little territorial, if you will, possessive, and he wasn't going to allow her to leave him and take his two boys.”
According to Vashti’s family, the slain mother had voiced fears that her husband might kill her one day. Her brother told Grace that, on one occasion, she poked her head in a co-worker's office door and said, “Do you really think he could kill me, burn the house down and make it look like a suicide?”
“She was afraid,” Forrest said.
Despite the appearance of a picture-perfect marriage, Vashti’s family said the couple was falling apart.
“Vashti was very private about their marriage, didn't share a lot. That's just who Vashti was. And it was probably a year before she told us she was going to file for divorce. She began sharing some -- the threats he had made. And of course the signs were there. He was becoming more and more controlling with her,” Hostetler said.
When asked what signs she was referring to, Hostetler said Brett Seacat began to change in front of the family's eyes.
“The lack of social life with her friends,” she said. “Everything was geared around the home. He didn't care to come to family functions more and more. At first he would go to church with her, and then that stopped. And he didn't see the necessity in doing things that normal people do. He was becoming more sullen, more withdrawn, didn't have anything nice to say, became critical,” Hostetler said.
Despite the warning signs of a troubled marriage, Vashti’s brother said he never imagined something like this could happen to his sister.
“I didn't see it coming, because it's so hard for human nature to encompass that type of evil act that you hear people threaten or you hear them allude to things, but at the end of the day, I think it's very hard for good people to really fathom that somebody could perpetrate such an act like this,” Forrest said.
Brett Seacat now faces a maximum sentence of life in prison with parole eligibility after 50 years.
His sentencing is tentatively scheduled for August 5. At the hearing, a judge will issue his sentence and family members will be given the opportunity to speak.
While the young Seacat boys are now left without a mother or father, Vashti’s mother told Grace, “They are doing wonderfully…they’re just blossoming.”