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Jailed On Charges of Killing His Ex-Wife, Man Allegedly Confesses To A "Practice" Murder

Nathan Beal has been held on a premeditated murder charge since September for the killing of his ex-wife, Mary Schaffer, who was found shot in the head outside his apartment. 

Prosecutors have accused a Washington State man, jailed since September while awaiting trial for the murder of his ex-wife, of confessing to a fellow inmate that he'd killed a man for “practice.” 

Nathan Beal, 36, has been held on a premeditated murder charge and a $1 million bond at the Spokane County Jail since September for the killing of his ex-wife, Mary Schaffer. On August 8, Schaffer, 32, was found shot to death in her car near Beal’s apartment in Browne's Addition around the time she was set to collect their two kids. 

On Friday, prosecutor Dale Nagy presented new evidence alleging that Beal had also shot 30-year-old Andrew Bull months before allegedly murdering Schaffer. On April 3, 2020, Bull’s body was found a few blocks away from where Schaffer was shot in the head; Bull was unhoused at the time of his death, according to the Spokesman-Review.

“[Investigators] believe the killing was done by Mr. Beal as practice," Nagy reportedly told the court.

For the second time, prosecutors asked the judge to combine the two cases. An initial request was denied by the court after shell casings from the same 9mm that were found at both crime scenes were presented to the court. A judge ruled at that time that combining the cases would unfairly prejudice the jury.

Nagy presented new evidence last week, saying a man named Shane Phillipy, who was jailed with Beal in Spokane, told police that the accused killer had told him he shot Bull for “practice” and because he was “curious,” Nagy said in court.  

Meanwhile, court documents say that Beal had allegedly promised to sell Phillipy some land if he could raise the money for his bail, the local outlet reported. Phillipy provided investigators with a copy of a contract that Beal wrote regarding the deal he floated; later,  forensic investigators from Washington State Patrol were able to match the handwriting to Beal’s own. 

Stephanie Cady, the public defender who is representing Beal, told the court that Phillipy is not a credible witness as he has a criminal history. On Friday, a second judge denied the motion to combine the two cases, saying that there was not enough evidence to show they were linked. 

In the years before Shaffer was shot dead outside his apartment, Beal had made several open threats on her life, according to local station KREM. Court documents show that her brother said that Beal believed Shaffer "had brain damage because of a tumor that had been removed from her brain, causing her to now be insane so she needed to be shot; Beal said he would take care of that.”

The trial for Schaffer’s death is expected to continue in October. 

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