Long Beach Man Sentenced to Life in Prison

Bombing Aliso Viejo Spa in Attack that Killed His Ex-Girlfriend and Injured Two Others

 

January 25, 2024

Crime & Law Magazine

A Long Beach man was sentenced today to life plus an additional 30 years in federal prison for building and planting a package bomb that detonated inside an Aliso Viejo day spa in May 2018, killing his ex-girlfriend, severely injuring two spa clients, and causing significant damage to a commercial office building.

The jilted lover, Stephen William Beal, 64, was sentenced by United States District Judge Josephine L. Staton, who said at today's hearing, "The cold, calculated nature of this crime is chilling."

At the conclusion of a four-week trial, a federal jury in July 2023 found Beal guilty of four felonies: use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, malicious destruction of a building resulting in death, use of a destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence, and possession of an unregistered destructive device.

Judge Staton sentenced Beal to life imprisonment on the first two counts, a consecutive 30-year prison sentence on the third count, and a 10-year concurrent sentence on the fourth count.

"Mr. Beal callously murdered a loving mother, maimed two other victims, and put at risk many others in the vicinity, including children and teachers at a nearby preschool," said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. "Mr. Beal's wanton disregard for the lives of others warranted the severe sentence that the court imposed, which should send a clear message that our community will not tolerate such acts of violence. We send our prayers to the victims and our heartfelt thanks to the first responders and investigators whose tireless work uncovered Mr. Beal's dastardly crime."

"In addition to the cruel and senseless murder of Ildiko Krajnyak, Stephen Beal severely injured two victims and terrorized the Aliso Viejo community and beyond," said Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. "We are gratified that Beal will spend the rest of his life in prison where he will no longer be in a position to indiscriminately harm others, nor torment the survivors of his crime. This case brought together many who shared a commitment to finding the truth, including tenacious investigators at multiple agencies, forensic teams that sifted through and analyzed a massive debris field following the attack, and dedicated prosecutors. Today is the culmination of five years of collaboration, and a day to honor the victims."

"It took extreme commitment and dedication by our personnel and federal partners to ensure justice was realized for the victims and their families, and I am grateful to see a conclusion for this horrific act of violence," said Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes. "We must never forget Ms. Krajnyak's family and the two surviving victims who will forever navigate life bearing the pain of that day. I hope today's sentencing provides them some semblance of comfort."

The bomb exploded at a commercial office building in Aliso Viejo at approximately 1:05 p.m. on May 15, 2018. The explosion instantly killed 48-year-old Ildiko Krajnyak – who owned Magyar Kozmetika, a day spa located in the office building – and permanently injured two of her clients: a mother and her daughter.

One of the surviving victims testified at trial that she saw Krajnyak standing behind her desk opening a cardboard box immediately before the explosion. The surviving victim pulled her mother from the rubble, and together they escaped the burning building through a blown-out wall. The survivors suffered second- and third-degree burns, and one lost an eye.

"There is no question that these injuries caused both excruciating pain and suffering," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

During a search of Beal's residence after the explosion, law enforcement found more than 130 pounds of explosive precursor chemicals and completed explosive mixtures, as well as electric matches and wires. Beal had years of experience building high-powered model rockets and homemade pyrotechnics, and laboratory testing determined that the explosive mixture Beal used in the bomb contained the same chemical he had at his home.

The FBI's Evidence Response Team spent more than two weeks collecting and processing evidence from the scene of the bombing. The FBI recovered parts of a 9-volt battery and wire fragments that were embedded in the ceiling above the blast site. The wires used in the bomb's fusing system were of the same unique type as electric matches and wires found at Beal's home.

Beal purchased the remaining items he needed to complete the bomb just days before the bombing. Store security camera footage showed Beal using cash to buy a single 9-volt battery six days before the bombing. Beal also purchased three cardboard boxes that matched the size and shape of the box the surviving victim testified Krajnyak opened when the bomb exploded.

Beal kept tabs on Krajnyak before the bombing, checking her online schedule application and social media account. Security camera footage and cellular locational data showed that Beal, who had a key to the business, visited the spa on multiple occasions before the bombing while Krajnyak was out of the country. Beal left the package bomb for Krajnyak to open upon her return.

Judge Staton scheduled an April 12 hearing to determine how much restitution Beal should be ordered to pay victims of the bombing.

In a separate case, Beal is scheduled to be sentenced on February 23 after pleading guilty in November 2023 to wire fraud, Social Security fraud, and concealment of bankruptcy assets. Beal failed to report in a bankruptcy proceeding $350,000 he received from his late wife's estate. He also schemed to fraudulently obtain insurance benefits and Social Security payments, resulting in his receipt of more than $1.3 million in fraudulent disability payments.

The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Orange County Sheriff's Department, and the Orange County Fire Authority were the primary investigative agencies in this matter. Task Force members who participated in the investigation included IRS Criminal Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Homeland Security Investigations; the Los Angeles Police Department; the Irvine Police Department; the Anaheim Police Department; and the Orange County Fire Authority. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Santa Ana Police Department, the Newport Beach Police Department, and the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center provided assistance.

The Justice Department's National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section, the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs, the FBI Legal Attaché in Thailand, the United States Department of State, and the U.S. Consulate in Vietnam provided valuable assistance. United States Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations provided substantial assistance.

Assistant United States Attorneys Mark Takla, Annamartine Salick, Solomon Kim and Sarah Gerdes, all of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section, prosecuted this case.

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