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Spokane man sentenced to over 31 years in prison for killing ex-wife in 2020

After appearing in court on Friday, Nathan O. Beal, 36, was found guilty of killing his wife.

SPOKANE, Wash. — A man was sentenced to 31 years in prison on Friday for killing his ex-wife two years ago.

Nathan O. Beal, 36 was found guilty of killing his ex-wife, Mary Schaffer, 32, in 2020. Beal was sentenced to over 31 years in prison after appearing in court on Friday.

During the verdict, Judge Maryann Moreno told Beal she doesn't know if he's a bad person, but she knows what's in his heart.

 “What you did though, was pretty bad," Moreno said. "And it was almost an execution the way it happened, although I guess the blessing is that I don't think she saw it coming. So if there's any, any mercy there for her that was in body it was as Mr. Navy says, totally unprovoked. She was totally unarmed. And again, caught it he planned it. And you did it.” 

Beal is accused of two murders and prosecutors believe he used a homeless man as practice for killing his ex-wife, according to court documents.

Beal was accused of killing his ex-wife, Mary Schaffer, 32, in August 2020, after Mary went to pick up their son and daughter from Nathan Beal's apartment. Beal is also accused of killing Andrew Michael Bull, 30, back in April 2020, whose body was found dead in a downtown Spokane alley.

Beal killed his ex-wife outside his home in Browne's Addition after Schaffer went to pick up their son and daughter from Nathan Beal's apartment. Beal had previously threatened to put a bullet in her head, according to court documents. 

During the trial, the jury learned from expert witnesses how a single bullet led to Mary's death and a medical examiner testified that Mary died from a gunshot wound to the head. He said that the gun was fired from only two feet away.

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.  

in February 2021, new evidence came forward after 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. 

Police did not have any leads regarding a suspect in the death of Bull until Beal was arrested for Schaffer's murder.

According to court documents, Bull's identity was initially unknown, and the reporting party indicated it may be a drug overdose case, but after an autopsy, they found Bull's death was due to a gunshot wound to his head. His death was ruled as a homicide.

After investigation police found Bull was experiencing homelessness in the downtown area and his family from Nebraska has reported him as a missing person in 2018.

At about midnight on April 2, 2020, Bull’s friend found him lying on a bicycle on the ground in 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.

Beal's next trial in connection to the shooting death of Bull is scheduled for May 2, 2022.

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