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A Southern California man was sentenced Friday to two concurrent life sentences, plus 30 years, for blowing up his ex-girlfriend’s spa business with a package bomb in 2018, killing her and seriously injuring two others.
Friday’s hearing concluded a case against Stephen Beal, 64, that was fraught with missteps for investigators and prosecutors since the May 15, 2018 bombing in an Aliso Viejo spa, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Los Angeles.
Ildiko Krajnyak, 48, was killed in the fiery blast when she opened a box with a homemade bomb inside that Beal had slipped into the spa while she was in Hungary visiting family. Two clients she had just treated — a mother and daughter — were knocked off their feet. The blast destroyed the business and tore a large hunk from the building. Body parts were found in the parking lot.
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“Mr. Beal will never be able to get out to harm innocent victims again,” said E. Martin Estrada, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, at a news conference after the sentencing.
A federal judge sentenced Beal to two concurrent life sentences for the charges of use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and malicious destruction of a building resulting in death.
Beal also received a 30-year sentence for the use of a destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence, which will run consecutively, and a 10-year concurrent sentence for possession of an unregistered destructive device.
Pictured here is the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, E. Martin Estrada, talking about the sentencing of Stephen Beal on Jan. 19, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)
Beal’s federal public defender, Craig Harbaugh, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“After five years of waiting and wondering, our family and friends have peace knowing that Mr. Beal will spend his remaining days in prison,” Eva Boni, Krajnyak’s cousin, said at the news conference.
Beal, a partner in the business, was jealous Krajnyak had been dating someone else after their 18-month relationship ended, prosecutors said.
“She was a shining light,” Nicole Barrett, her best friend, said at the news conference. “She was an amazing human being.”
Beal was arrested shortly after the explosion on a single charge of possessing an unregistered destructive device but was never officially named as a suspect in the blast in the days that followed. The charge was dropped after prosecutors questioned whether material found at his Long Beach home constituted a “destructive device.” Beal claimed that explosive material found at his house was for his model rockets.
He was free for nearly 10 months before being re-arrested following a painstaking analysis of the evidence.
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Beal’s first trial in 2022 ultimately ended in a mistrial after the federal jury deadlocked. He was retried in 2023 and the second jury convicted him of four felonies including the use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death.
“Our justice system can sometimes take time,” Estrada said on Friday. “The end result is what matters.”
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said Beal maintained his innocence during Friday’s hearing.
“I could not think of anything more insulting,” Barnes said during the news conference.