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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Prosecutors: Man who killed his ex-wife was ‘on the hunt’ when he first killed homeless man downtown

Jan. 24, 2023 Updated Mon., Jan. 30, 2023 at 6:01 p.m.

Nathan Beal, 38, in the foreground to the right, is accused of killing Andrew Bull in 2020.   (Quinn Welsch/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Nathan Beal, 38, in the foreground to the right, is accused of killing Andrew Bull in 2020.  (Quinn Welsch/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Attorneys made brief arguments on Tuesday about a man who is accused of shooting and killing a homeless man in a downtown Spokane alleyway before murdering his ex-wife months later.

Nathan Beal, 38, stared at the 14 jurors as they filed into the courtroom on Tuesday morning.

Beal set out on the night of April 2, 2020, “on the hunt and looking for something very specific. He left his apartment in the Browne’s Addition area and entered an alleyway and (found) exactly what he’s looking for,” Deputy Prosecutor Jonathan Deagan told jurors during his opening argument. “That man’s name was Andrew Bull.”

Bull, who was homeless, died just before midnight from a single gunshot wound to the head.

Prosecutors seek another murder conviction for Beal, relying on ballistics evidence that his handgun was used to kill Bull and that the type of ammunition found at the crime scene matched ammunition Beal had at his apartment.

Defense attorney Stephanie Cady argued that there is insufficient evidence to convict Beal.

“Please pay attention to everything you have here, but note all of the things that are missing,” Cady told jurors in her opening argument. “Nathan Beal is a suspect in this case. He is charged with murder in the first degree. The state has to prove those charges beyond reasonable doubt.”

There are no credible witnesses, no blood on Beal’s clothing, no connection between the two men, no DNA evidence, no fingerprints and no clear surveillance footage, Cady said. Beal had a gun at his apartment, but Cady argued that doesn’t prove he is responsible for Bull’s killing.

Bull’s body was discovered just after midnight on April 3 in an alleyway between Second Avenue and the railroad tracks. A friend saw him lying on the ground on top of his bicycle near a commercial loading bay.

The friend, Peggy Gilligan, testified on Tuesday that she was walking around the neighborhood for a couple of hours in the evening as a way to wind down from work when she came across Bull, who was alive at the time. She had planned to give him food later that night, but the next time she passed through the alley, Bull was collapsed on the ground, Gilligan said.

“He was goofy and funny. He cared a lot about people,” Gilligan said of her friend. “He was basically a harmless person.”

Gilligan said her friend did not have any enemies that she knew of.

Several members of Bull’s family were also in the courtroom on Tuesday wearing shirts that read “In loving memory of Andrew Bull.” However, Judge Michelle Szambelan asked that they not wear the shirts in the courtroom so they don’t bias the jury.

Potential juror bias has been a major concern in the court, considering Beal’s previous conviction.

Beal was found guilty in March 2022 of murdering his ex-wife, Mary Schaffer, who had come to his apartment building in Browne’s Addition, 1904 W. Second Ave., in August 2020 to pick up their children when he shot her in the head.

Beal denied killing his wife during the trial in 2021. He was sentenced to 31 years in prison.

Bull’s killing was considered a “practice” run before Beal murdered his wife, Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy said in 2021. Court documents said he was once involved in a heated altercation at a homeless camp with his children present and later discussed killing the people at the camp.

Investigators did not have any leads on Bull’s killing until Beal killed his wife. Nagy attempted to have the two cases combined, but was denied.

Beal’s trial is scheduled to continue through Thursday.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on January 30, 2023, to correct the spelling of Mary Schaffer’s name. 

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