A business associate and former boyfriend of the woman killed in an Aliso Viejo building explosion was charged Thursday with a single count of possessing an unregistered destructive device, but he was not charged with anything in connection with the deadly blast.
According to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court in Santa Ana, investigators who searched the Long Beach home of Stephen Beal, 59, found “two completed improvised explosive devices and three firearms,” and none of them were registered.
Beal appeared briefly in federal court Thursday afternoon. Another hearing was scheduled for Monday, when attorneys will discuss bail and scheduling.
The FBI affidavit confirmed that the Tuesday afternoon explosion that killed 48-year-old beautician Ildiko Krajnyak in Aliso Viejo occurred when she used some type of tool to open a brown cardboard box that had been piled on the floor near the front counter of her day spa.
The explosion occurred around 1:10 p.m. Tuesday inside the Magyar Kozmetika spa on the first floor of the building at 11 Mareblu. Krajnyak was killed and two other women, who were customers at the spa, were seriously injured.
According to the FBI affidavit, one of the injured women told investigators that while she was at the spa, she noticed “lots of mail piled up along with three to four brown cardboard boxes on the floor next to the counter.” The woman said she saw Krajnyak pick up one of the boxes, place it on the front counter and open it.
“As soon as Krajnyak opened the box, (the witness) stated that the box exploded and recalled being blown backwards by the explosion onto the floor,” according to the document. “She also saw flames and smoke.”
The other woman in the spa at the time told investigators she was also knocked to the ground by the blast, and she described “seeing everything on fire,” according to the affidavit.
The affidavit, written by FBI special agent Evan Jesch, states that Beal was leasing the space that housed the day spa operated by Krajnyak. They met in June 2016 through an online dating app and they dated until February or March of this year, when they broke up over financial issues and “disputes over the exclusivity of the relationship.”
Beal, however, paid the $1,500 per month rent for the day spa and half the operating costs. He told investigators the lease was in his name because Krajnyak had filed for bankruptcy, according to the affidavit. The couple also co-own a cosmetics business called 888 Unlimited.
Jesch wrote that investigators found about 130 pounds of explosives or “precursors” in Beal’s home, most of it in the garage and the rest in a pool house. Beal told agents he was a model rocket hobbyist, but hasn’t actively pursued it for nearly 14 years and hadn’t touched the equipment since. He said he used to also make fireworks, but stopped after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the affidavit.
During the search of his home, however, investigators found two cardboard tubes that had been rigged as explosives, but Beal claimed “that he had not made any bombs or anything that catch on or cause a fire.” He also told investigators that he had built another small device with a long fuse “to assist with his neighbor’s gopher problem,” according to the affidavit.
Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said Wednesday that investigators believe Tuesday’s explosion “was caused by a device,” and he said they “do not believe this was an accident.”
“There are some components we have located at the scene that are inconsistent with what one might expect to find at this business,” Delacourt said. He said those items were being shipped to the FBI’s crime lab for analysis.
The FBI affidavit filed Thursday indicates that investigators who searched the spa following the explosion found “a nine-volt battery, a cellular telephone, melted material that appeared to be duct tape and loose wires.”
Delacourt urged anyone who might have information about the blast to call a hotline at (800) CALL-FBI, or (800) 225-5324.
FBI agents conducted a search at Krajnyak’s home on Drover Court in Trabuco Canyon Wednesday and were seen carrying several boxes out of the house.
Federal court documents show that Krajnyak and her estranged husband, Ronilo Vestil, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2014, stating in part that their home was “scheduled to be sold through foreclosure” in December of that year. The couple filed paperwork in January asking for dismissal of the case, and it was officially closed on Monday.
Neighbors said Krajnyak and her husband were separated but were still living together in the Trabuco Canyon home, along with Krajnyak’s mother, for whom she was caring.
Irene White, a friend of Krajnyak’s family, told reporters Wednesday that the explosion was a “complete shock” to the victim’s loved ones.
“Family always came first for” Krajnyak, White said. “She took great pride in finding beauty in everyone.”
White appealed for contributions to a GoFundMe site, which seeks financial assistance to bring the victim’s son, Keanu Laszlo Vestil, home from Seattle, where he attends the University of Washington. The fund also seeks help for the funeral expenses.
Delacourt said investigators have not established a motive for the blast.
Beal’s Facebook page describes him as an actor. An Internet Movie Database page for Beal lists a series of minor credits, including the TV movie “Samuel Adams” and several shorts and small productions.
One of his neighbors, “Mushroom” Montoya, told reporters he was shocked at Beal’s arrest.
“We can’t fathom he would do anything mean, or nasty, or anything else,” Montoya said. “He used to make rockets about as big as I am. He would do it in the driveway by his garage. He’d go out to the desert and fire them off.
“… If I were the police and I have an explosive issue — a bombing – – and I come to this house and I find rocket fuel plus they were business partners, then all these things kind of enter into play in terms of it being suspicious,” Montoya said.
Another neighbor told reporters that Beal’s late wife died 10 years ago, not long after being injured in a furniture-moving mishap. Don Westerhoff said Beal told neighbors that the pair had been moving a heavy cabinet downstairs, when Beal lost his grip on the furniture and it slid down the stairs, slamming into his wife.
Beal told neighbors it “slipped out of his hand and took her downstairs faster than she could run backwards, I guess,” Westerhoff said.
NBC4 reported that Beal’s wife was only injured by the falling cabinet, but went back to a hospital three weeks later due to repeated vomiting, and she died soon after. The station reported that Beal was uncooperative with doctors while his wife was being treated, and he later sued their life insurance company when they refused to pay benefits after her death. He was ultimately paid $500,000, Channel 4 reported.
According to Los Angeles County Coroner’s records, Christine Beal was 48 when she died March 8, 2008. The cause of death was pancreatitis, electrolyte imbalance and other undetermined factors. Another contributor to her death was listed as chronic lead intoxication.
The case status was considered closed.