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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Man sentenced to more than 31 years for killing of ex-wife when she came to pick up their kids

UPDATED: Fri., March 25, 2022

Nathan Beal, convicted of killing his ex-wife in August 2020, talks with his attorney Feb. 23 in Spokane Superior Court on the first day of his murder trial.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
Nathan Beal, convicted of killing his ex-wife in August 2020, talks with his attorney Feb. 23 in Spokane Superior Court on the first day of his murder trial. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

A Spokane man was sentenced to more than 31 years in prison Friday for killing his ex-wife when she came to pick up their two children in 2020.

Nathan Beal, 37, is also awaiting trial on a second murder charge for the killing of Andrew Bull in March 2020. Prosecutors say Beal killed Bull as practice in preparation to kill his ex-wife, Mary Schaffer.

Beal shot and killed Schaffer when she arrived outside his apartment to pick up their kids, who spent summers with Beal and the rest of the year with her in Oregon.

In a statement read to the court ahead of sentencing, Schaffer’s sister, Donnella Ray, asked that Beal receive the most severe punishment possible.

Ray detailed how Beal was hateful toward her disabled daughter and would talk about killing her and her entire family.

“Nathan Beal must never be released,” Ray wrote. “Mary was not the only one he intended to murder.”

A jury found Beal guilty of first-degree murder after less than three hours of deliberation earlier this month.

During the trial, Beal admitted he was “frustrated” with Schaffer but denied killing her, despite ballistic evidence linking a gun found in his apartment to her death. The same gun was matched to a shell casing in Bull’s death too, according to court documents.

On Friday, he declined to make a statement to Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno before she made her final decision, other than continuing to deny committing the crime.

“I’m maintaining my innocence,” Beal said.

His attorney said Beal plans to appeal the verdict, and asked that Beal be sentenced to the low end of the sentencing range of 240 to 320 months due to his lack of criminal history, among other factors.

Prosecutors asked that Beal be sentenced to 320 months along with a mandatory 60-month firearm enhancement due to the unprovoked and extremely violent nature of the crime.

Moreno agreed the crime was unprovoked. She added that Schaffer’s entire family, especially her two children, were heartbroken by the killing.

“Their world has been shattered by this,” Moreno said.

She went on to sentence Beal to the high end of the sentencing range at 380 months.

“I think justice cries out for the high end of the range,” she said.

As part of the sentence, Beal is not allowed to contact his children or any of Schaffer’s family members.

Beal’s trial for Bull’s death is scheduled to begin in May.

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