A Costa Mesa man who held off police with a rifle while he barricaded himself and two young children inside his apartment--and whose wife's body was later found in an automobile trunk--was found guilty of second-degree murder Friday by a Superior Court jury.
If jurors decide next week that the defendant, Austin Elliot Beal, 52, also tried to kill a previous wife in Tennessee 15 years ago, five more years could be added to the 16-year-to-life sentence he is facing after Friday's conviction.
Beal pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of his former wife five years ago, according to Tennessee court records.
In the more recent case, the body of Beal's second wife, Gretchen Spritz Beal, 32, was found stuffed in the trunk of the family car on March 11, 1984, after Beal ended a seven-hour holdout and surrendered to Costa Mesa police. She had been beaten and strangled, officers said.
Law enforcement officials alleged that Beal had called family members in Florida earlier that morning and asked them to pick up his children because he had killed his wife. He called them back about six hours later to see if they were coming, and the family then called the police.