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Prosecutors say Spokane man killed homeless man as practice for ex-wife's murder

Nathan O. Beal, 35, is accused of killing his ex-wife in August 2020 and a homeless man in April 2020.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane County Prosecutor argued a man accused in two murders carried out the first murder as practice, according to court documents.

Nathan O. Beal, 36, is accused of killing his ex-wife in August 2020 and a homeless man in April 2020.

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

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.

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.

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, prosecutors believe Beal used Bull as practice for killing his ex-wife.

Court documents say a lab analysis of a 9mm pistol found at Beal's apartment and shell casings at each of the crime scenes confirmed it was the same gun used to kill Bull and his ex-wife. Detectives also learned Beal gave his girlfriend money to buy the gun from White Elephant.

In the fall of 2020, prosecutors wanted to merge the two murders so Beal would be tried for both cases at once. The judge denied the request, ruling it would unfairly prejudice the jury.

Then, new evidence came forward in February 2021. A Spokane County inmate told police Beal admitted to shooting Bull out of curiosity and to practice. The inmate claimed Beal solicited him to kill a list of people, including his own mother and his ex-wife's fiancé. Beal even wrote up a contract agreeing to sell his property in exchange for paying his bail.

Prosecutors believed this was enough evidence to support its theory about the connection of the two murders and merge the cases. The judge declined it again because there was not a sufficient connection between the two.

Beal's trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 4.


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