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Nathan Beal found guilty of first-degree murder

This man accused of murdering his ex-wife and a homeless man was found guilty of first-degree murder on Tuesday morning after just hours of jury deliberations.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The murder trial for Nathan Beal, the man accused of shooting his ex-wife in Browne's Addition two years ago, came to an end after a jury unanimously found him guilty of first-degree premeditated murder on Tuesday morning.

The jury began deliberations on Monday afternoon and returned with a verdict after just three hours on Tuesday morning. The trial lasted only four days. 

According to the jury instructions, jurors had to convict Beal of first-degree murder if the following elements were proven by the state beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant acted with intent to kill his ex-wife Mary Schaffer on August 8, 2020
  • His intent to kill was premeditated
  • Schaffer died as a result of Beal’s acts. 

Since they found him guilty, the jury also returned two special verdicts. They unanimously agree Beal was armed with a firearm at the time of the crime, and he was in an intimate relationship with the victim.

The Spokane County prosecutor also confirmed they will be filing separate murder charges against Beal. Those charges relate to the homeless man Beal allegedly killed four months before murdering his ex-wife. Investigators believe he shot the man for practice.

The sister of Mary Schaffer's fiancé, Meg Priest, said they are relieved by the guilty verdict. She and her brother are hoping for the absolute maximum sentence. 

Priest hopes that through this tragedy they can raise more awareness and change legislation for domestic violence victims.

The prosecutor and defense attorneys had their chance to convince the jury that Nathan Beal is either innocent or guilty of murdering his ex-wife Mary Schaffer in Aug. 2020.

According to Spokane County court documents, Mary Schaffer flew to Spokane from Oregon to pick up the two children she shares with Beal. Spokane police later found Mary slumped over in her rental car with a gunshot wound to the head. She was parked outside Beal's apartment in Browne's Addition.  

In closing arguments this afternoon, the defense insisted Beal is not guilty of murder because the evidence doesn't 100% identify him as the killer. They also pointed out that forensics only found Beal's thumbprint on the gun he owned and that his DNA wasn't found anywhere else that would connect him to the crime.

"There was no blood found on the clothing he was wearing," defense attorney Stephanie Cady said. "There was no blood found on the muzzle of the gun that they tested. She thought she saw something that looked like it could be blood, so she tested it. That wasn't blood, nothing on the muzzle."

But, the prosecutor argues the evidence proves he is guilty, especially considering investigators found the murder weapon in his apartment.

"Now, the argument is 'Well, it takes a great marksman to hit somebody in the face from two feet away,'" Spokane County prosecutor Dale Nagy said. "No it doesn't. Anybody else with a gun could probably shoot somebody in the face and hit him from one to two feet away. It doesn't take a great marksman to do that. It takes somebody who's angry. Someone who is emotional, someone who is upset. Someone who is mad at their wife."

The prosecutor reiterated to the jury why forensics did not find blood on the gun. Based on a detective's testimony, the pressure that builds when the bullet enters is relieved when the bullet goes out the back of the head. This means that investigators didn't expect any blowback of blood on Beal.

Beal faces up to life in prison. His sentencing is set for March 25, 2022.

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