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Man Convicted of Murdering His Ex-Wife When She Arrived to Pick Up Their Kids

Nathal Beal in court.

Nathan Beal.

Jurors took three hours to convict a man for murdering his ex-wife as she was going to pick up their kids.

Nathan Beal, 37, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 25 for killing Mary Schaffer, 32, but he is also charged with shooting a homeless man as practice for slaying his former spouse. Investigators originally could not locate the unknown suspect who shot Andrew Michael Bull, 30, in the head, but that changed after shell casings from both crimes allegedly matched each other.

Schaffer lived in fear of her ex because he had made threats against her. Ultimately, the former couple had separate custody of their two children, with Beal having them in the summer months in Spokane, Washington, and Schaffer taking care of them for the rest of the year where she lived in Oregon.

It was in Aug. 8, 2020, when Schaffer arrived in a rental car at Beal’s apartment complex. Citing ballistics analysis, an investigator said the gun was fired from just two feet away as she was getting out of the vehicle.

“For the bullet to enter above her left eye, it was much more likely that she turns as though to get out of the vehicle at which point she is shot,” Detective Benjamin Green said, according to KREM. “That also allows for, if the head is turned up and to the left as though exiting the vehicle, that bullet would travel through just above the eye, out the back of the head and maintain that trajectory into that vent.”

A neighbor found her several hours later. Schaffer’s boyfriend Justin Sharp also requested a welfare check because he had not heard from her. Mary was found slumped over in the vehicle, and shot in the head.

Schaffer’s 14-year-old daughter testified her father returned to his apartment with mochas, and he did not appear upset that her mother did not arrive, according to KREM. In this account, Beal claimed their mother was stuck in traffic. The daughter described him as being energetic and anxious.

Prosecutors said the murder was the culmination of longtime hostile behavior. For example, Mary’s brother testified Beal made threatening comments after she had surgery for brain cancer. Beal asserted Mary needed to be taken out and shot, and that he was going to do it, the sibling said.

“He would call me and say that she was brain damaged,” Joseph Schaffer said. “Or that she was not the person I knew.”

Sharp’s sister Meg Priest has spoken about Schaffer in glowing terms.

“She was an amazing soul,” she said shortly after the murder. “We are so blessed to have had the privilege to have had her in our lives for the time that we did.”

Sharp testified that an August 2019 custody exchange became difficult. Beal insisted on talking to Schaffer alone, but she refused because she was uncomfortable, Sharp said. He testified that he stayed at Mary’s request to make sure she was safe.

“[Beal] threw a tantrum and left and said good luck getting your kids back,” Sharp said.

They ultimately called the police because Beal did not answer the door.

Sharp testified that he did not join Schaffer in the tragic 2020 custody exchange because he got called into work.

Beal’s attorney Stephanie Cady argued there was a lack of evidence. She attacked the state’s timeline and argued the prosecution lacked DNA evidence. At most, the only thing they had was her client’s thumbprint on his own gun, she said.

“There was no blood found on the clothing he was wearing,” she said, according to KREM. “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.”

The defense was to no avail. Jurors delivered a guilty verdict.

Now Beal must also contend with claims he shot and killed Bull, who was found dead in early April 2020 in Spokane’s downtown area. A witness heard gunshots. Although surveillance footage recorded a suspect, investigators did not have a name until Beal killed Schaffer. They claim Beal had physical movements and a build similar to the suspect seen on video. Authorities also said that the suspect arrived from Browne’s Addition. This is the Spokane neighborhood where Beal lived.

[Screenshot via KREM]

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