Months before he shot dead his ex-wife, a Washington man murdered a homeless person for practice, prosecutors alleged in court.
On Aug. 8, 2020, Mary Schaffer was to pick up her two children she shared with ex-husband Nathan Beal, 36, at a home in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood in Spokane. The 32-year-old mother was discovered fatally shot in the head in her vehicle outside the residence.
Investigators recovered shell casings at the scene and later linked them to a 9mm Ruger handgun Beal had in his house, The Spokesman-Review reported, citing court documents.
On April 3, 2020, Andrew Bull, who was homeless, was found also shot in the head in an alleyway blocks away from where Schaffer was murdered four months later. A shell casing from that scene was allegedly matched to another taken into evidence in Schaffer’s case.
“We believe the killing was done by Mr. Beal as practice,” prosecutor Dale Nagy told the court on May 7.
Nagy argued the two murder cases should be combined and claimed jailhouse informant Shane Phillipy recently told prosecutors Beal allegedly admitted to shooting Bull, 30, because he was “curious” and for “practice.”
Prior to the murders, the prosecutor claimed, Beal went to a homeless camp with his children and talked about killing people living there.
Stephanie Cady, the suspect’s defense attorney, argued the jailhouse informant was “very likely not a credible witness” because of his “significant criminal history,” The Spokesman-Review reported.
Cady also noted combining the two murder cases would cause “undue prejudice” with the jury.
A judge agreed and denied Nagy’s motion. The trial was postponed until October so Cady, who was assigned to the case in March, could prepare an adequate defense — despite Beal opposing the postponement on grounds the delay would lead to “indefinite detention.”
Beal has been held on $1 million bond in the Spokane County Jail since September on a premeditated murder charge in connection with his ex-wife’s death.
Although Beal is currently a suspect in Bull’s slaying, he has not been charged in that case.