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'Be the light': Community remembers Browne's Addition murder victim at Saturday's vigil

The sister of Mary Schaffer's fiancé described her as "the most beautiful woman" and an "amazing mother" who loved her children fiercely.

WARNING: This story contains graphic content.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The friend of a woman who was allegedly killed by her ex in Browne's Addition on Aug. 8 is remembering her as an amazing mother who deeply loved her fiancé and children. 

Nathan O. Beal, 35, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in relation to 32-year-old Mary Schaffer's during a court appearance on Monday, Aug. 10. A judge set his bond at $1 million. 

The Spokane County Medical Examiner's office determined that Schaffer died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Beal is also under investigation for the shooting death of a man in April, according to court documents filed on Tuesday, Aug. 18. 

A vigil for Schaffer is planned for 8:15 p.m. on Saturday at Coeur d'Alene Park in Spokane. 

Schaffer was engaged to a man named Justin Sharp before she passed away, according to his sister. Meg Priest, who spoke with KREM's Amanda Roley on Wednesday, said Sharp and Schaffer met in Oroville, Washington, about four-and-a-half years ago. 

“She just stole his heart and vice versa. They were perfect together. Their love was just amazing. You could see how much they just loved being with each other," Priest said. 

Priest described Schaffer as "the most beautiful woman" and an "amazing mother" who loved her children fiercely. Schaffer also loved adventure, sunsets and photography, Priest said. 

“She was an amazing soul. We are so blessed to have had the privilege to have had her in our lives for the time that we did," she added. 

Court documents say Schaffer was Beal's ex and they have two children together. Her car was parked across the street from Beal's apartment when her body was found, documents say.

Schaffer told her brother before the murder that she wanted to be careful when she picked up the kids because Beal wanted her dead, and "that he said he had a bullet for her head" and her boyfriend, documents said.

RELATED: Docs: Spokane murder suspect says brain tumor made ex 'insane,' wanted her dead

While Schaffer's family and friends mourn her death, they also hope to bring awareness to domestic violence. Priest said they hope to change the laws and create a "three-strike rule."

"If there has been known violence documented through the police department and the woman has not pressed charges, by the third time, the state will pick up and press charges against the abuser," Priest said. 

Beal under investigation for another shooting death

Police did not have any leads regarding a suspect in the death of 30-year-old Andrew Michael Bull, who was found dead in a downtown Spokane alley, until Beal was arrested for Schaffer's murder. 

Beal has not been arrested for or charged with Bull's murder, but he is under investigation for the crime. 

According to court documents, Spokane police received a phone call about a deceased individual in the alley of the 900 block of W. 2nd Avenue at 12:05 a.m. on April 3, 2020. 

The victim was later identified as Bull, court records say. An autopsy determined that the cause of his death was a gunshot wound to the head and the manner was listed as homicide.

Credit: Courtesy
Photos of Andrew Michael Bull provided by a family member

According to court documents, a friend told investigators that Bull was experiencing homelessness in the downtown Spokane area. 

At about midnight on April 2, Bull’s friend found him lying on a bicycle on the ground is front of a loading dock, court records say. She then walked to a women’s shelter located at 2nd Avenue and Madison Street and asked someone to call 911. 

Police also spoke to two residents of an apartment building on the south side of the alley where Bull’s body was found. One of them said she heard a loud noise which she described as “one or possibly two gunshots,” according to court documents.

According to court records, the alley where Bull's body was found can only be accessed via Lincoln Street on the east and Monroe Street on the west. The exceptions to this are private entrance doors at the back of commercial buildings along the alley. Businesses were closed when the incident took place.

Two businesses in the area provided video surveillance to police, according to court documents. In those videos, a suspect is seen walking from the alley on the west side of Lincoln Street at about 10:54 p.m. on April 2. The suspect then crosses Lincoln Street and enters the west end of the alley, where Bull’s murder took place.

According to court records, the suspect was wearing dark clothing from the neck down and he appeared to have a lighter-colored hood on his head.

At about 11:11 p.m., an audio recording captured the distinct sound of a gunshot, court records say. There were no individuals who entered and exited the west end of the alley prior to the gunshot.

The next activity is shown on video at 11:16 p.m., when the suspect is seen walking out of the alley from the east. Court records say surveillance video at the opposite end of the alley showed that the suspect never emerged from the east end of the alley, nor does it show anyone else doing the same.

Video evidence corroborated the statement from Bull’s friend about her discovery of the body and notification to law enforcement, according to court documents. It also indicates that the suspect and victim were the only people in the alley when the gun was fired.

Other video recordings also showed the suspect’s movements before and after the shooting. On at least two occasions, the suspect appears to implement counter-surveillance techniques, court records say. He is shown at one point backing up against the north wall of City Gate between dumpsters, where he looks up and down the alley and continues walking eastbound toward the crime scene.

There is another occasion caught on video where the suspect is shown stepping back into an alcove or alley area in the 200 block of S. Cedar Street. He then emerges and continues north on his way to the crime scene.

Police determined through viewing video surveillance that the suspect entered downtown from the Browne’s Addition area, proceeded to the crime scene and departed the downtown area back to Browne’s Addition, according to court documents.

Court records say that the suspect had the build of an adult man and walks with his feet at a slight outward angle, which is relatively common. The movement of his upper board appeared relatively unique to police, as his shoulders alternate forward and backward with each step.

Leads regarding a viable suspect in Bull’s murder dried up until an officer received a call from detectives on Aug. 8, 2020. They said they were called out to a homicide, which turned out to be the murder of Schaffer in Browne’s Addition, according to court documents.

Detectives said Beal had similar physical movements and mannerisms to what he previously observed and knew of the suspect in Bull’s case, court records say.

Beal is approximately five-feet-eight-inches tall and 165 pounds. His physical size is within the build of the suspect shown extensively in video related to Bull’s case, court records say.

Police have requested a search warrant for Beal’s apartment to look for items related to Bull’s case, including the jacket, pants and boots worn by the suspect, dark gloves, and any news reports related to either the murders of Bull or Schaffer.

KREM's Amanda Roley and staff members contributed to this report. 

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