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Homicide victim identified as ex-wife of suspect

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 10, 2020

The Spokane County Jail.  (JESSE TINSLEY/Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane County Jail. (JESSE TINSLEY/Spokesman-Review)

A woman found dead in her car in Browne’s Addition on Saturday has been identified as the ex-wife of the man suspected of killing her, according to court documents.

Mary Schaffer was found slumped over in her car near the corner of Elm Street and Second Avenue around 2:30 p.m. Saturday when a caller to police reported seeing her unresponsive and bleeding from the mouth. Police responding to the scene determined Schaffer had been shot once in the left eye, killing her.

She had just arrived in Spokane to pick up her two children, who had been staying with their father Nathan Beal for the summer, documents said. Schaffer’s rental car was parked directly across the street from Beal’s apartment when she was discovered.

Beal, 35, was arrested during the initial investigation Saturday and booked into Spokane County Jail on charges of first-degree murder.

According to court documents, Schaffer was Beal’s ex-wife. Beal had openly made threats against Schaffer’s life since their separation in 2017, family members told police.

Schaffer’s boyfriend told police she was scared Beal would kill her, documents say. Schaffer had been texting her boyfriend frequently as she approached Beal’s house “in case things went south” and had sent her boyfriend a picture of her rental car and its plates in case she went missing, according to the documents.

Officers contacted Beal at his apartment shortly after Schaffer was found, documents say. Beal told police he was expecting her to arrive around noon, but she had never shown up.

When Schaffer texted her daughter around 12:30 p.m. to say she was outside, her daughter replied that Beal was not home. A neighbor later told police she had heard a gunshot at that same time and had looked out to see a male matching Beal’s description and wearing a gray shirt and blue jeans running away from a car.

Beal had been shirtless and wearing blue jeans when officers first contacted him in his home, according to the documents. Police later found a gray shirt matching the neighbor’s description in a dumpster behind a grocery store nearby. During a search of Beal’s apartment, police found a handgun matching a shell casing found near Schaffer’s car.

According to court documents, Schaffer’s brother told police Beal had often talked explicitly about how he would kill Schaffer. Schaffer’s brother reported that Beal had told him four years ago Schaffer “needed to be shot” because the removal of a tumor from her brain had made her insane. Another time, Beal had said he was going to save up $3,000 to hire someone to kill Schaffer, the documents say.

Beal pleaded not guilty to the murder charges at his arraignment Monday afternoon. His bail was set at $1 million.

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