Rocket hobbyist convicted of planting bomb at Aliso Viejo day spa that killed ex-girlfriend

Two men in jackets that say "FBI" walk down a residential street.
FBI agents search the Long Beach home of Stephen William Beal in March 2019 following the explosion at the Magyar Kozmetika day spa.
(Los Angeles Times)
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A rocket hobbyist was convicted Wednesday of planting the homemade package bomb that detonated at an Aliso Viejo day spa in 2018, killing his ex-girlfriend and injuring two others.

Federal prosecutors argued that Stephen William Beal, 64, possessed the uncommon expertise in electronics and chemistry to construct the bomb, as well as obsessive jealousy toward a woman who was trying to extricate herself from a relationship with him.

That woman, Ildiko Krajnyak, 48, was killed by a blast on May 15, 2018, when she opened a cardboard box she found at the Magyar Kozmetika day spa, according to testimony at Beal’s trial in downtown Los Angeles.


She and Beal were business partners at the spa. A pair of customers, a woman and her daughter, were seriously injured in the explosion but escaped through the rubble of the obliterated structure.

After a three-week trial, a federal jury found Beal, of Long Beach, guilty of using a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, and three other felonies related to the explosion.

“He resented her — he killed her,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Takla told jurors in his closing argument Wednesday.

In early 2018, Beal’s texts to Krajnyak reflected increasing anxiety about whether she would leave him, and the prosecutor said Beal threatened to kill himself when she said she wanted some space.

A federal jury in Los Angeles was not able to reach a verdict in the trial against Stephen Beal, a Long Beach man who’s accused of bombing an Orange County spa to kill his ex-girlfriend in 2018.

Aug. 22, 2022

On a trip to Portugal two months before the explosion, Beal examined her phone and discovered she’d been seeing other men, though he continued sending her love notes. One of them read: “I saw your face and that’s the last I’ve seen of my heart.”

The prosecutor said Beal had access to the spa, knowledge of Krajnyak’s habits, and “decades of experience in rocketry,” combining skill in electronics and chemistry that made it possible to build a bomb without blowing himself up. Beal had once built a bomb to eliminate a neighborhood gopher, the prosecutor said.


When investigators searched Beal’s home, they found 130 pounds of explosive precursor chemicals, explosive mixtures, and wires of the same type found in the ceiling at the blast site.

Defense attorney Meghan Blanco described her client as “nothing more than a hobbyist” who tinkered with rockets and pyrotechnics, and said authorities had rushed to judgment.

“Is it a very common hobby? No,” she said. “Does it make Mr. Beal a bomber? No.”

She said he had invited investigators into his house and let them search his computers. Evidence of his hobby — including homemade rockets — were in plain sight, as well as in public videos, and he did not attempt to hide the 130 pounds of chemicals. Given that, she said, it would have been stupid to choose a bomb as a means of murder.

“Someone who wanted to set Mr. Beal up would do something like that,” the defense attorney said.

Beal’s first trial in connection with the bombing resulted in a deadlock last year. He faces at least 30 years in prison, and the possibility of life in prison, when he is sentenced Nov. 17.