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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Man charged with murdering ex-wife now a suspect in April homicide in downtown Spokane

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 19, 2020

A man charged with murdering his ex-wife earlier this month is now a suspect in the killing of a homeless man in April after ballistics tests showed the same gun and ammunition were used in both shootings.

Nathan Beal, 35, was charged with murder on suspicion of killing his ex-wife, Mary Schaffer, on Aug. 8 after her body was found in a car in Browne’s Addition.

Investigators found a shell casing outside of Schaffer’s vehicle that was collected for evidence and later linked to a 9 mm Ruger handgun found in Beal’s residence, according to court documents. The casing was submitted to the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network where it was found to match a shell casing found at the scene of an April 3 homicide.

Early on the morning of April 3, Spokane police received reports of a body in the alley of the 900 block of West Second Avenue. The incident was reported as a drug overdose but investigation revealed the victim was shot in the head.

The victim was identified as 30-year-old, Andrew Michael Bull.

A friend discovered his body but did not have a cellphone so she asked an employee at a nearby shelter to call the police, according to court records.

The friend said she saw Bull earlier in the night talking with a man and woman in the same area but the trio had parted ways, according to court documents.

The employee said she heard one to two gunshots about an hour earlier but that her husband had not seen Bull while taking their dog for a walk at about the same time.

Detectives arrived and processed the scene collecting fast food containers for potential fingerprints and a 9 mm Winchester brand cartridge.

Bull’s parents, who live in Nebraska, said they reported him missing at least once in the past, but they were estranged. Bull’s mother said she was aware her son was homeless in Spokane and had been using drugs but had not been able to get in touch with him, according to court documents.

Multiple businesses in the area have surveillance cameras that capture part of the alley where Bull was found, according to court documents. Surveillance footage shows a person entering the alley wearing dark clothing from the neck down with a lighter colored hood pulled up on his head. The person did not have a backpack on and is described in court documents by investigators as walking casually and confidently.

About 10 minutes after the person walks into the alley, a gunshot can be heard on the video, according to court documents.

The person is shown about 4 minutes later exiting the alley.

Investigators were able to use surveillance video to track the suspect after he left the alley for about 15 minutes before he disappeared from view walking toward the railroad underpass on the 1700 block of West Third Avenue.

Surveillance video from earlier in the night shows the suspect entering downtown from the same area in Browne’s Addition.

Investigators were unable to find any solid leads until Aug. 8 when a detective on the scene at the Schaffer homicide noticed Beal had similar mannerisms to the person on the surveillance video in the Bull homicide, according to court records.

After executing a search warrant on Beal’s home, police discovered a 9 mm Ruger handgun with Winchester brand ammunition.

The ammunition in both the Bull and Schaffer cases was not only the same brand and caliber but bullet fragments from both scenes showed full-jacketed bullets were used.

Beal has not been charged with any crime in connection to Bull’s death. Both homicide investigations are still ongoing, said Sgt. Terry Preuninger.

The Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory is conducting further examination of the firearm evidence in both cases.

Beal is being held in Spokane County Jail on a $1 million bail after being charged with first-degree murder in connection to Schaffer case.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the date Schaffer died, which was Aug. 8.  

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