Court docs: Spokane murder suspect kills ex-wife as she was coming to pick up kids

Nathan Beale

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Police arrested a 35-year-old man for allegedly killing his ex-wife Saturday afternoon. She was in town to pick up her kids.

According to court documents, Nathan Beale was arrested and charged with first-degree murder with domestic violence. Beale’s bond was set at $1 million, and he pleaded not guilty.

On August 8, a witness called 911 and said they saw a woman slumped over in a car near Elm Street and Second Avenue in the Browne’s Addition. Documents identify the woman as Mary Schaffer. The witness said she was bleeding from the mouth and not responding.

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An officer arrived and found “trauma to the left eye, consistent with a bullet entry into the head,” documents stated. The officer said it did not look like she was robbed and her purse was over her shoulder as if she was about to get out of the car, court documents said. Police found a 9 mm shell casing on the ground near the car.

Schaffer’s car was parked across the street from Beale’s house, documents said.

While the officer was at the scene, dispatchers got a 911 call from the victim’s boyfriend. He said Schaffer flew into Spokane that day and was texting him as she got closer to Beale’s house.

According to documents, police soon got in touch with the victim’s brother. He told police they were aware of Schaffer’s death.

“He and his siblings knew this was coming, because Beale has not concealed his hatred of Mary and his plan to shoot her,” documents stated.

Her brother told police that Beale has talked about committing murder over the past three to five years. He stated that Beale was “not one to leave loose ends,” documents said. He added that Beale has openly threatened to shoot Schaffer before. Last summer, when she went to pick up the children, Beale allegedly said he was going to kill her, according to court documents.

Schaffer’s brother told police that Beale told him about brain damage Schaffer had due to a tumor. According to her brother’s statement in documents, Beale told him about four years ago that the brain damage caused her to go insane “so she needed to be shot.” Beale told Schaffer’s brother that “he would take care of that.” The brother also said that Beale said he was going to save up $3,000 to hire someone to kill Schaffer.

As police talked to the victim’s boyfriend, she told him that Beale wanted her dead and that he said “he had a bullet for her head” and a bullet for her boyfriend’s head, documents stated.

Because she was scared, documents state that Schaffer was going to stay in contact with her boyfriend as she picked up her children from Beale “in case anything went south.”

“She thought he might strangle or beat her to death,” documents said. “She was scared to go to Spokane and get the kids.”

Police found Beale at his home and started to question him. According to documents, Beale said there was no parenting plan in place for the two children. He said he was expecting his ex-wife around noon to pick up the kids. He told police he went to get coffee around noon and she didn’t show up. When police questioned him about owning a gun, documents state that Beale “was evasive and did not provide a clear answer.”

Officers later spoke to the children. One child stated they were living with Beale for five weeks. Documents said that the child said they found a gun in Beale’s backpack the first week. They put it back and did not tell Beale about the discovery.

Spokane detectives questioned a neighbor who said they heard a gunshot around 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The witness said they saw a man running away from Schaffer’s car. According to documents, the description give by the witness matched Beale’s description.

As detectives started to investigate the crime scene, they found a shirt in a dumpster near the car. Documents state that the shirt was similar to what the witness described. They also obtained a search warrant, which led to the discovery of a 9mm gun. The shell casing matched the one found near Schaffer’s car, documents state.

Spokane Police booked Beale into the Spokane County jail around midnight on Sunday.

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