Southern California man who blew up ex-girlfriend’s spa with a package bomb in 2018 sentenced to 2 life in prison

A Southern California man, Stephen Beal, 64, has been sentenced to two concurrent life sentences, along with an additional 30 years in federal prison, for orchestrating a bombing in 2018 that targeted his ex-girlfriend’s spa business.

The blast resulted in the death of Ildiko Krajnyak, the owner of the Orange County spa, and caused serious injuries to two other individuals.

This development marks the conclusion of a case marked by investigative and prosecutorial missteps since the incident on May 15, 2018, in Aliso Viejo, about 50 miles south of Los Angeles.

Conviction and Sentencing

During Friday’s hearing, Beal received the harsh sentence, with U.S. Attorney E. Martin Estrada expressing relief that Beal would never pose a threat to innocent victims again.

The sentencing addressed the culmination of the case that had been marred by challenges for investigators and prosecutors.

Background of the Crime

The bombing targeted the spa owned by Krajnyak, who lost her life in the explosive attack. Two clients, a mother and daughter, also suffered serious injuries.

The incident unfolded when Krajnyak opened a package containing a homemade bomb that Beal had placed in the spa while she was away in Hungary visiting family.

Legal Process and Missteps

Beal’s legal journey faced initial complications, including his arrest on a single charge of possessing an unregistered destructive device immediately after the explosion.

However, he was not officially named as a suspect in the following days, and the charge was dropped due to questions about the material found at his home constituting a ‘destructive device.’

Beal, a model rocket hobbyist, claimed innocence, stating that the materials were for his rocket-building hobby.

Trials and Conviction

Beal’s first trial in 2022 resulted in a mistrial as the jury deadlocked.

He was retried in 2023 and ultimately convicted of four felonies, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death.

The charges also included malicious destruction of a building resulting in death, use of a destructive device during a crime of violence, and possession of an unregistered destructive device.

Personal Motivations and Relationship Dynamics

Prosecutors argued that Beal’s jealousy over Krajnyak dating someone else after their relationship ended fueled the deadly act.

Despite their romantic split, Beal and Krajnyak remained business partners, making the bombing a tragic turn in their professional and personal association.

Family and Community Impact

Krajnyak’s family expressed relief at the conclusion of the legal proceedings, stating that Beal’s imprisonment brings peace after five years of uncertainty.

The victim’s friends and community members mourned the loss of a “shining light” and an “amazing human being.”

Previous Legal History and Mysterious Death

Beal’s legal history included a previous arrest, a mysterious death of his wife in 2008, and a subsequent settlement.

His wife’s death was marked by uncertainty, with causes listed as ‘undetermined’ and ‘chronic lead intoxication.’ Beal had won a settlement related to her death.

Investigation and Evidence

Federal investigators discovered two improvised explosive devices, firearms, and over 100 pounds of explosive material during a search of Beal’s house.

Despite initial challenges in defining the evidence, a meticulous analysis led to Beal’s re-arrest, trial, and eventual conviction.

Conclusion of a Long Legal Process

U.S. Attorney Estrada acknowledged that the justice system, at times, takes time but emphasized the importance of the end result.

Beal’s federal public defender, Craig Harbaugh, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the sentencing.

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