Stephen Beal was convicted of the murder of his former girlfriend, Ildiko Krajnyak, and the harm inflicted upon two other unconnected individuals. The incident occurred in 2018 when he detonated a bomb at a day spa in Long Beach, California. Although he was apprehended a year later, conclusive evidence against him led to his guilt only in 2023, following a mistrial in 2022. ‘Dateline: Death at the Spa’ delves into the circumstances preceding the incident and examines the evidence that ultimately resulted in Beal’s conviction.
Who is Stephen Beal?
In 2018, Stephen Beal and Ildiko Krajnyak, who were former romantic partners but ongoing business partners, jointly owned a spa in Aliso Viejo, Long Beach, California, situated approximately 50 miles from Los Angeles. The two had been involved in a relationship for about 18 months, which eventually ended. After returning from a visit to her family in Hungary, Ildiko Krajnyak discovered a cardboard box at her spa.
On May 15, 2018, at approximately 1:05 p.m., as she opened the cardboard box, an explosion occurred, destroying the building, resulting in the death of Krajnyak and injuring two other individuals — a mother and her daughter — who were present at the spa during the incident. Despite the devastation, the daughter managed to pull herself and her mother to safety. Upon police arrival, they discovered wires on the ceiling and parts of a 9-volt battery, which they collected as evidence. Additionally, body parts of Krajnyak were recovered from the blast site. On that day, Beal contacted the authorities, revealing that he and Krajnyak were business partners who had recently ended a romantic relationship.
Even though Beal was never officially named a suspect, law enforcement harbored suspicions about him. A few days after the explosion, he was arrested on a single charge of possessing an unregistered destructive device. Authorities discovered some materials in his residence that suggested the presence of a ‘destructive device,’ but they couldn’t definitively determine its intended use. Beal was released following the initial arrest. Subsequently, the FBI, in collaboration with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and various JTTF partners, intensified their scrutiny of the evidence.
In March 2019, Beal was re-arrested as authorities reached certain conclusions. A thorough search of his residence revealed approximately 130 pounds of explosive chemicals and mixtures. The wiring used to construct the bomb’s fuse was also discovered at Beal’s house. Additionally, scrutiny of security footage in the vicinity provided more evidence implicating him in the incident. These findings led to his re-arrest, indicating a stronger case against him.
The surveillance cameras documented Beal purchasing a 9-volt battery with cash, and he was also recorded buying three identical cardboard boxes to the one Krajnyak had opened before the explosion. The police gathered additional evidence that contributed to establishing a possible motive for the crime committed by Beal. It was revealed that two months before the incident, Beal and the victim had traveled to Portugal, where Beal had taken pictures of Krajnyak’s text messages with other men.
The prosecutors handling the case against Beal asserted that when Krajnyak attempted to terminate their relationship, he had threatened to take his own life and exhibited signs of obsession. They also managed to establish that Beal closely monitored Krajnyak’s activities, regularly checking her social media accounts. Beal, being the one with keys to the spa, had visited the establishment frequently before the explosion. In light of the substantial evidence gathered by the police, he was accused of orchestrating the blast, and legal proceedings against him commenced.
Stephen Beal is Serving His Sentence Today
Stephen Beal’s initial trial commenced in July 2022, but it concluded with a deadlocked jury, leading to a declared mistrial. The second trial began in July 2023. Prosecutors argued that the explosion was part of Beal’s revenge plan, concocted after discovering that his ex-girlfriend was conversing with other men. They said that he had not been able to accept that his relationship had ended and had decided to take this step. Conversely, Beal’s defense team contended that he was merely a rocket hobbyist, and the evidence found at his residence pointed to nothing beyond his unusual hobby.
In the second trial, Beal was convicted on four felony charges: using a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, committing malicious destruction of a building resulting in death, utilizing a destructive device during a crime of violence, and possessing an unregistered destructive device. His sentencing took place in January 2024, where he received a life imprisonment term for the first two counts, a consecutive 30-year prison sentence for the third count, and a concurrent 10-year sentence for the fourth count.
At present, the 64-year-old Beal is incarcerated in federal custody, serving his sentence at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. Throughout the legal proceedings, he consistently asserted his innocence, expressing a desire for the actual perpetrator of the crime to be identified and held accountable. The specific details regarding Beal’s parole are not publicly disclosed.