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This episode of Talking Dateline is featuring a Dateline episode called Death at the Spa, which is quite the title. This is a very good episode from Josh Mankowits. Hello, Josh.


Hi, Andrea.


Yeah, I can't wait to dig into this one. There is so much to talk about. We have a lot of spoilers coming up. If you haven't listened to the show yet or watched it on TV. It's the episode right below this one on the list of podcasts. So go there, listen to it or watch it on TV, and then come back here. And when you come back, I've got a ton of questions for Josh, and apparently, so do you. A lot of people posted questions on social media about this one. And the last thing we should mention, Josh is going to play us an extra clip from one of his interviews that didn't make it into the broadcast, which this is a good one for an extra clip. There's a little tease for you because Yes, that was good. Because it's something that you won't see coming from the episode. So stick around for that, and you'll hear that right here on Talking Dateland. Okay, so let's talk Dateland, Josh. But first, Josh, for those of you who can't see this, he is holding up a sign that says, I'm wearing a wire.


Which is a very funny moment.


Not that murder is funny, of course, but I'm sorry, I laughed when that happened, when you held up that sign, because I wouldn't have thought of that.


As I said in the broadcast, maybe I watch too many movies and TV shows, but that thing does happen when people are being recorded and they want to tip off the other person. Now, in that staying, We're a little ahead of ourselves here, but in that one, the FBI was watching as well as listening. But I presume there was an opportunity for her to hold up a sign just like that. I asked Valerie about it, and she says that she did not.


All right, right out of the gate, I thought, Okay, this is an episode me. I am a huge Real Housewives fan, and Orange County is actually my favorite of the franchise.


Of all the housewives?


Of all the housewives. That's my number one. As I started watching, I thought to myself, minus the murder, all of this could be in the Real Housewives. I mean, it was so fitting all of the drama and the men and the women and the sex.


And it's also a huge tragedy because Ildika was a mom and a friend, and she had a great knack for making people feel brighter, lighter, bearer, and she connected with her clients. So I mean, this is... People loved her. Ildica had a lot of boyfriends, and she did not always tell each one of them about the others. That's usually no problem in life unless you get killed. And then all of those relationships are going to get looked at, which is what happened here.


On one hand, I was like, Oh, Ildiko, you're playing with fire. And then there was a part of me that was like, look, I guess she knows what she wants. This is a woman who's like, this is me.


She was constantly looking for the right guy. She went through a lot of guys to find that. But as her friends told us, she would believe that she had the right guy, and then she'd get bored, and then she'd move on to some other right guy. And one of the things that this episode bears out is that homicide investigations have a nasty habit of laying bare everybody's secrets, including those held by people who don't actually have anything to do with the murder.


It certainly gives a lot of suspects. Instantly, you've got this long list for law enforcement of people who could want her dead.


Yeah, there was a lot of drama in this story. There was. And certainly, a lot of it was generated by that relationship between Ildiko and the man she had been seeing and his wife, Elizabeth Papp.


So Ildiko was sleeping with Elizabeth's husband.


At one point, yes.


So Elizabeth goes and confronts Ildiko at the spa Yeah, both of them.


And there was a fight. There was a shouting fight, and somebody shoved somebody else. Not quite clear how that happened or who began that. Right after the explosion, when Ildeca's husband and Steven Beale both tell law enforcement about that other couple and about how angry Elizabeth had been at her, she won. Elizabeth did. She got her husband back from Ildiko, and that didn't even slow down how angry she was at Ildiko. She's sending Ildeca photos, which we would never be able to show on TV, essentially saying, I got him, you lost. Now, the feeling I got from Elizabeth Papp was that she was more interested gloating than she was in hurting anybody. She was trash talking her more than she was actually going to go out and hurt her. But Elizabeth knew that, I think she knew and said to us that she expected that the police would be at her door after she heard that Ilda Co had been killed.


All right. This is really scary when you're dealing with an explosion. As a method of murder, I mean, you're putting other people in danger, not just your target, but anybody. I mean, that was a big explosion in a commercial area.


Well, particularly when it's a... That bomb was not remotely detonated, and it wasn't like put in somebody's car where you can see who it is and push a button. I mean, that bomb was going to go off whenever that package was open. And if it was Ildiko who opened it, then she was going to get killed. And if somebody else opened it, they were going to get killed. And if there were three people standing around when that happened, they were going to get killed. That is evil. And it opened up the walls of the building. And that's why people thought it was a gas leak, because it was that super powerful explosion. And there were two women in the spa at the time. They had just been her clients. And that's when they get this huge flash and an explosion, and then the roof caves in.


Can you imagine the fear?


Both of those women have dealt with serious health concerns since then.


And not just physically, but imagine the mental trauma that you would experience totally. From something like that. It's just not something you see very often of a way to target someone. I mean, this requires skill. A lot of skill. To know how to do this and also to know where she is, when she's there, that there's a good chance she'll be the one to open it. I mean, a lot of thought has to go into this.


And that's one of the things that narrowed the field. I mean, there were a lot of things that led investigators to Steven Beale. I I mean, he had gone out with her. He clearly was disappointed that they weren't together anymore. He had the chemicals in his house that could have been used to make the bomb, and he bought that battery just a few days before the explosion, which they believe is the battery that powered the bomb. And he bought that box that is very much like the one that the other women in the spa saw Ilda go open. I mean, it's circumstantial in that case.


The detective work was really incredible on this, down to the CVS video of buying that battery. I mean, that was really good.


That was an investigator who saw the video of Steven Beale getting cash from that machine, and he knew that area. And he said, You know what? There's a CVS right across the street and down a little bit. And he's like, Let's just go get their tape and see what we see. And so they get the tape and they find Steven Beale buying one battery. That was definitely a clinching piece of evidence, I think.


One of the things I just I could not understand was why Steven would insert himself and come in without even being asked. I'd love your take.


This would not be the first time on Dateland that we've seen somebody walk into law enforcement and engage them with the guise of, I'm trying to be helpful, and what they're trying to find out is how much you have. He certainly came across as a guy who thinks he's the smartest guy in the world, walking into law enforcement, volunteering all this information. When he leaves, he's under much more suspicion than he was the moment he walked in.


Maybe in his mind, he thought, Well, the real killer wouldn't volunteer and wouldn't come in. They surely will think I'm innocent. But she's killed by a bomb, and that is such a specialized thing. You're in her world, you're in her circle, and you know how to do that thing.


You've got those chemicals at home. You've got that video online of how to mix explosive chemicals. He had to have known that that was out there. He also had to know that those chemicals were in his house and would be found in a search warrant. Looking back, the smartest thing you could have done was retain counsel immediately and not speak with law enforcement. Absolutely. But he went the other way.


Wouldn't you scrub your house? If you've just committed a murder like that, wouldn't you have gotten rid of all of your chemicals and your explosive?


I asked about that. I I presume the answer could be that any traces of those chemicals could still be detected. Even if you get rid of them, a explosive sniffing dog is still going to know that there was explosive chemicals stored there at one point, and that may look worse for you than if you just leave them there and say, Well, I build model rockets. So I have this in the garage, and they've been here a long time.


True. But if you don't volunteer hear yourself, it may never get to the point where they can even get a search warrant for your house.


Well, that's true. Steven Beale made law enforcement's job easier by walking in and not being able to shut up. There's no question about it.


So, Steven, one of the things we teased earlier on- Earthquake.


We're having an earthquake right now. You're kidding. Right now, we are.


Are you okay? Is anything falling? I'm fine. No, but it's- I saw you shaking.


No, it's still shaking. Oh, my It's still shaking. Not a giant one, but definitely bigger than the last few that we've had. Okay, well, everything here looks intact. So let's continue.


Well, never a dull moment on Talking Dateland.


No, no kidding, right?


The other thing that was just unbelievable to me was the acting gig that he got in 12 angry jurors.


What are the odds?


And then I was dying when you tell us that not only was Dateland in the audience, but so was the FBI.


There's the bureau. Yeah. When you can tell it, there's six people wearing that same gray suit in the audience. And then maybe that's the tip-off. I mean, if the play is like something from Shakespeare, that's one thing. This is a play about a murder trial? I mean, come on. And he's the jury foreman in the play. No, it was great. I mean, art imitating life and life imitating art.


Yeah, no kidding. When we come back, Josh has a clip to play for us from his interview with Steven's daughter.


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You ready for what's coming? Here was, I thought, the big weakness in the government's case, and it's the same one that the defense pointed out in both trials, both the mistrial and the eventual verdict, is I see the chemicals, and I see the very specialized set of skills that you would need to have to make a bomb like that. I see the access, and I see the motive. What I don't see is the venom, which we've covered a lot of cases like this in which guys kill their exes or the woman who broke up with them, and they usually telegraph that punch. It's not hard to see coming. You know they're furious. And I said to the government, Where's the text where he says, You'll never get away with this, or, You have humiliated me and you will pay for it? And that, I just didn't see. They're still exchanging these cuddly texts right up until the end.


Because he's like a bomb himself that's about to go off. It's all bottled up inside. You just need to light the fuse.


That's exactly Exactly what the government said, which is he's not that person. He's not the person who gets angry and yell. He's going to take some subtle action that when it kills you, will not be subtle.


One of the things that was not in the show which is big. I was surprised it wasn't in the show. Steven, this is not the first death of someone he supposedly cared about.


No, it's not. In 2008, his wife, Christine, fell down the stairs in the home that they had in the Long Beach area. We have a clip of Charlene Brown, Steven Veal's daughter, on that topic.


So my mom and dad start carrying this dresser down the stairs.


He's above and she's below.


He's on the top. She's on the bottom.


If I were doing this, I'd be on the downward side, and my wife would be at the top.


Not if you're my mom.


She was strong enough.


Oh, yeah.


And something happened. He lost his grip?


Basically, they lose their balance. So she falls, and the dresser falls on top of her abdomen, and my dad falls on top of the pile.


And she's hurt pretty badly.


Yeah, she was hurt pretty badly.


Your mom was convinced it was completely an accident.


It was completely an accident.


You're convinced it was completely an accident.


Completely convinced it's an accident. And anything else to the contrary is absolutely absurd. Wow.


She has some lingering injuries from that, and she has to go back to the hospital a few more times over the next couple of weeks. And then eventually, she dies from those injuries. But the death is attributed not to that only, but also to some complicating factors, one of which being that she had a lot of lead in her system, and no one's quite clear where that came from. She dies. Is this suspicious to some people? Well, certainly in light of the Ildeco situation, it is. But even back then, it was enough for law enforcement to take a look at it. The reason I didn't include that is that I didn't have the time to tell the Ildeco story and this other story. That could be a whole separate deadline, except it doesn't lead anywhere. No charges were ever filed. At one point, the insurance company did not want to pay the settlement to Steven Beale for the accidental death of his wife. And there was a lawsuit about that, and he won, and they paid.


My goodness.


So he must have had some argument that she died legitimately as an accident. And that's why we decided not to spend any time on it, because to tell that story suggests to the audience that there's more there than actually is there.


Can we talk about Valerie? Valerie. Valerie. Yeah, Valerie. Oh, Valerie. I just wanted to shake her. Why are you staying with him?


Well, that's the question. I mean, they had just started seeing each other when he got arrested. She stuck with him. They dropped the charges. She's there to pick him up from the slam. Now, I will say this. I thought that Valerie was doing the best that she could in the situation that she was in. And as I said to Valerie, there weren't any men available who were not already facing a federal indictment. I mean, there are. You don't have to take the Steven Beels of the world who are locked up. But she was on board by then, and she cared for him. I think she thought, well, he says this is nothing. Therefore, I believe him. And when the FBI came to her and put a lot of pressure on her. Valerie said, Look, I will do the right thing here. I will be undercover. I'll wear a wire, and I'll be at this wired weekend away with the FBI listening in the next room and watching on video, and I will try and get him to confess. And nobody, not the prosecutors, not the FBI, nobody claims that Valerie did not try. She tried to get Steven to say something incriminating, and he did not.


And that's the other side of the coin. The one side is your sign, right? And then the other side is she was doing everything she said she was doing. She was being truthful and he didn't bite. And so that made her feel better that here we are in private and he's not confessing to this. I feel better about this.


I think his lack of confessing did make her feel better. I believe that Valerie was maybe more surprised by the verdict than a lot of people.


Well, she was also very surprised by your revelation that hurt, which, wow, I've never seen anything like that on Dateland before. When you told her about these text messages to Ildiko that Steven was sending when they were together She thought he was over her. That was just- And he wasn't. Oh, that was so painful to watch her face in real time getting that news about that he was still in love with Ildiko.


Yeah, and that was not pleasant for me either. But on the other end, Valerie was on the witness list for both trials, so she wasn't there when those texts were read in court. So that's information that was available to everybody except her. And she's not talking to the government. They're not breaking down the case for her. Now, Steven's defense was, I didn't hate Ildiko. In fact, I'd already moved on. I was in another relationship, and it's this woman, Valarie.


The text messages would say otherwise.


The government's argument was that the whole relationship with Valarie was was part of his alibi, that he did it as part of the cover-up. There really is anything to prove that. And Valerie, I think, certainly felt like that was a genuine relationship.


And then you present her with these text messages, that was enough for her to break up with him, correct? Was that the beginning of the end?


I think the beginning of the end was probably coming anyway, and maybe that pushed her a little bit quicker.


Right. Well, this was a very fascinating, fascinating episode. Coming up in just a minute, I'm going to ask Josh some of your questions about the show. We know you have a lot.


Hey, guys. Willy Geist here, reminding you to check out the Sunday Sit Down podcast. On this week's episode, I get together with one of the funniest people on the planet, Katherine O'Hara, to talk about her new movie, Argyll, the wild popularity of her character, Moira Rose, and her lifetime in comedy. You can get our conversation now for free wherever you download your podcasts.


Josh, a lot A lot of viewer response, as we mentioned earlier. We got one comment from a viewer named Felicia, who is Felicious1908.


I should say Felicia is a friend of mine in real life because we met at one of those Dateland viewer events, and then she and I have kept in touch since there's a couple of pictures of us sitting next to each other, and we've stayed in touch on Twitter or whatever they're calling it now.


Well, Felicia is very intuitive and she has caught on that Steven was talking in past tense about Ildeca.


Well, which was one thing that the cops realized that Steven Beale was talking about Ildeca in the past tense, and that was before they had identified her as the person who was killed in the blast. He's talking about her in the past tense. This is one of those things that you and I come across all the time, which is that getting away with murder is harder than you think it is. You think, okay, I'm going to camouflage my involvement in the scheme. But then you can be tripped up by something as small as you're talking about the person as if they're dead, and the police haven't even identified the victim yet. That's a tell.


Yeah, for sure. All right, Seth, 982-760. What a talker. How many hours of interviews did he give? Steven, I feel like it was more than average.


It was something like 10 hours. I think that for Steven Beale, the urge to see where the investigation was going was was irresistible. He walked in and just couldn't shut up. I said this on Twitter the other night, which is, If you're guilty, don't do that. If you're innocent, don't do that. If what you really like is facing a lot of scrutiny for law enforcement, then do that.


I mean, the only time if you're not guilty that you would want to do that is if you genuinely had really important information and you tell the police, This could help you solve this crime. Is really important that I give you this information. Right.


I'm not saying, Don't go in and talk to the police. I'm saying that whether you're innocent or whether you're guilty, going in and making light of the situation and telling jokes, doing a magic trick, that's something else.


Okay, so Sheena Sheebuster, 85. We're not doctors, we're not therapists, but could a narcissist pass a polygraph?


Certainly possible. Look, you don't have to be a narcissist to to pass a polygraph. It's one reason why they're generally not admissible in court cases, and certainly not in the instance of Stephen Bale. That's why, because if you can convince yourself, sometimes you can convince a machine, and therefore, your responses will appear to be truthful.


Another really big viewer response was in regards to Valerie. Jazz and Summer said, Why is Josh embarrassing this woman on TV by reading those texts? But then Felicia, Felicious 1908, who we already talked about, said, I'm glad Josh read her the text. She really was prepared to wait for him. And then another person said, Josh burst wifey's bubble with those texts. This was a very unique moment in a dateland, for sure. Well, yeah.


Look, I did not enjoy telling Valarie that Steven was still thinking about Ildeca at a time when he was telling Valarie that he was thinking only about her and that Ildeca was in his rear view when she clearly was not. But on the other hand, it felt like it was time for some tough love, which I think after you've spent years and years and years sitting around waiting for this guy to be available with your own life on hold, I think finding out that the basis of the relationship, which was a lie from him to her, is something that everybody needs to know.


In the end, I thought that she needed to hear that, and I think it was a wake-up call for her. I think that that was the silver lining of that uncomfortable moment.


I think ultimately, Valar is in a better place because of that.


Yeah, absolutely. I want to give a shout-out before we go to Pebbles.


Oh, Pebbles. She's a friend of mine.


Yes. Well, we love Pebbles because she loves you and she loves Dateline. She loves you so much that she named her cat Mank, and she calls it Baby Mank. I guess the show got Baby Mank worked up because Baby Mank got the hiccups, and they were making his entire body jump.


It got Adult Mank worked up, too. I'll tell you that. Look, I think more and more people need to name their pets after their favorite Dateland correspondence.


Although Andrea is such a strange name for a pet.


What pet it is, right? What if it's a beautiful bird, right?


Okay, maybe someone out there will name their bird after me, as long as it's a pretty one. That's possible.




Well, thank you, Josh, for all of your insight. That is it for our Talking Dateland for this week. And thanks everyone for listening to us. We love hearing from you so much. So remember, if you have any questions about our stories or Dateland or true crime that's on your mind, reach out to us on social at datelandnbc, and we'll see you on Fridays on Dateland.