A rocket-obsessed man who was arrested in California on suspicion of having explosives after a blast killed his ex-girlfriend at her day spa has walked free after a judge dismissed a charge against him.
Stephen Beal was released from jail Sunday – a day after a judge approved prosecutors’ request to drop a single charge of possessing an unregistered destructive device, a spokesman for the US attorney’s office said Tuesday.
Beal, 59, was arrested during the investigation of the May 15 bombing that killed Ildiko Krajnyak in her Orange County spa, but he was never named as a suspect in the blast.
Federal investigators said they had discovered two improvised explosive devices, three firearms and more than 100 pounds of explosive material during a search that Beal allowed of his house.
Stephen Beal (pictured in February 2018), 59, who was arrested in California on suspicion of having explosives after a blast killed his ex-girlfriend at her day spa has walked free after a charge was dismissed against him
Beal, 59, was arrested during the investigation of the May 15 bombing that killed Ildiko Krajnyak (pictured together) in her Orange County spa, but he was never named as a suspect in the blast
Beal was released from jail Sunday – a day after a judge approved prosecutors’ request to drop a single charge of possessing an unregistered destructive device. Pictured is the inside of the day spa where the explosion occurred
The charges were dropped despite federal investigators discovering two improvised explosive devices, three firearms and more than 100 pounds of explosive material during a search of Beal’s home. Another photo shows the inside of the badly damaged spa
Prosecutors sought to drop the charge after the FBI said it had questions about whether material found in the house met the legal definition of a ‘destructive device’.
Beal, a model rocket hobbyist, told investigators he had not made any bombs and did not have material for an explosion as powerful as the one he saw in news coverage.
The father-of-four told authorities that the explosives found at his home were part of his rocket-building hobby.
Krajnyak, 48, was killed and two female clients were seriously injured when she opened a box that erupted in a fiery explosion at the spa in the city of Aliso Viejo, about 50 miles south of Los Angeles, investigators said.
Beal and Krajnyak had recently split up over issues of exclusivity and finances, he told investigators, according to an affidavit filed in court by an FBI agent. But they remained business partners.
Krajnyak, a mother and licensed cosmetologist, had just returned to California after visiting family in her native Hungary when she died in the blast.
Earlier this month, shocking surveillance images emerged showing the scale of the devastation caused by the massive explosion.
The image shows an investigator surveying the scene, where much of the ceiling appears to have been collapsed, wires were blown out of place, and a hole was created in the wall.
Prosecutors sought to drop the charge against Beal (left and right) after the FBI said it had questions about whether material found in the house met the legal definition of a ‘destructive device’
Beal, a model rocket hobbyist, told investigators he had not made any bombs and did not have material for an explosion as powerful as the one he saw in news coverage. His Facebook page has many photos of him traveling with Krajnyak to places like Portugal, Mexico and Canada
The father-of-four told authorities that the explosives found at his home were part of his rocket-building hobby. Above are pictures he posted of rockets on Facebook
Krajnyak’s 20-year-old son returned home from Washington State University after hearing the horrific news about his mother, according to KABC-TV.
‘It’s just all so sudden that a lot of this is still very raw,’ an emotional Keanu Vestil told reporters. ‘And still really hard to process for everybody.
‘I just want to express my gratitude for just all the love and support that I’ve gotten from everybody in the last two days. It’s just been a lot.’
Stuart Davis, who lives a few doors down from Stephen Beal’s home in Long Beach, said he often saw Beal and his adult son working on large rockets on their front lawn. The son told Davis that they built movie props, he said.
‘I’d come home from home sometimes and there would be rockets, but big, like something you’d see in a movie,’ Davis said.
Beal’s wife mysteriously died after she fell down the stairs inside two-story home in a tidy middle class neighborhood.
Neighnor Don Westerhoff, 90, told The Orange County Register that Beal and his late wife Christine were moving a heavy piece of furniture down the stairs and Beal lost his grip.
She died in 2008, aged 48, according to coroner’s records, with the cause of death listed as ‘undetermined’.
Other causes where listed as ‘pancreatitis, electrolyte imbalance and other undetermined factors’.
‘Chronic lead intoxication’ was also mentioned in the report, and an autopsy described the death as mysterious but said there was no evidence of foul play.
Krajnyak’s 20-year-old son, Keanu Vestil (above), returned home from Washington State University after hearing the horrific news about his mother
Krajnyak, 48, (left and right) died and three other people were seriously injured in the blast at 11 Mareblu, in Aliso Viejo, California, earlier this month
The explosion blew siding off the walls, exposing insulation and framing and shattering windows at the two-story building
The Orange County Register reported that Beal won a $500,000 settlement from American International Life Assurance Company of New York in 2010.
He said Christine died from traumatic pancreatitis after she fell while carrying a 49lb end-table.
An FBI agent wrote a note earlier this month that was included in the court filing which said the materials found in Beal’s home were ‘not consistent with that of a model rocket’.
Nathan Beal told The Associated Press that his father built sport rockets fueled by a propellant that is legally available at specialty hobby shops. He believes federal agents may have found ‘motor cases made out of aluminum’.
He said it was ‘highly unlikely’ his father was guilty of any charge related to a destructive device.
The biggest of the rockets used about five pounds of fuel in multiple motors.
The younger Beal also confirmed that Stephen had been in a relationship with the woman killed in the blast but they recently broke up.
Beal’s Facebook page has many photos of him traveling with Krajnyak, a married mother-of-one of Coto de Caza, Orange County.
Photos on his Facebook page showed them living it up in far-flung places: a beach in Cuba, restaurants in Portugal, and riding jet skis in Mexico. But the romance cooled earlier this year after disputes over exclusivity and finances, authorities said
Krajnyak was a licensed cosmetologist who ran day spa Magyar Kozmetika out of the first floor of the building. Authorities say the explosion occurred on the same floor, after a package was delivered
Their travel destinations included Mexico, Canada and Portugal.
State documents show Beal and Krajnyak as officers in a skin care business called I&S Enterprises.
Krajnyak was a licensed cosmetologist who ran day spa Magyar Kozmetika out of the first floor of the building.
Authorities say the explosion occurred on the same floor, after a package was delivered.
One of the other women injured in the blast told federal investigators that the device was inside one of a number of cardboard boxes on the floor, according to court doucments.
When Krajnyak opened the box, it exploded.
The victim said she remembers being thrown backwards onto the floor and seeing smoke and flames.
A witness told investigators that she saw ‘everything on fire’ after the blast.
Investigators said they found a nine-volt battery, a cell phone, melted material believed to be duct tape and loose wires, according to the court filing.
The blast blew siding off the walls, exposing insulation and framing and shattering windows at the two-story building.
‘At this point, we do not believe this was an accident,’ Paul Delacourt, special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Los Angeles, said two weeks ago. ‘Our working theory is that this explosion was caused by a device.’
Pieces of the device found at the scene were being sent to the FBI’s laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, to be analyzed, he said.
Firefighters and sheriff’s deputies escort children from Academy on the Hill pre-K school in Aliso Viejo on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, after the fatal explosion nearby
Krajnyak (pictured) was originally from Hungary and had just visited there just before the explosion
Delacourt said investigators were still working to determine a motive and figure out exactly how the device was brought to the spa.
Photos on Beal’s Facebook page, where he described himself as an actor and a member of the SAG-AFTRA actors’ union, showed him vacationing with Krajnyak in Cuba, sitting together on the beach and riding jet skis in Mexico and shopping in Portugal.
Krajnyak was originally from Hungary and had just visited there, according to her Facebook page and a neighbor.
It was during her trip to Hungary that the mail which was received at her day spa – including the suspected explosives-laden package, began to pile up.
Her Facebook page showed photos from her home country, including a selfie outside the clinic where she trained to become an aesthetician 30 years ago.
Krajnyak’s Orange County business offered services such as facials, waxing and wrinkle treatments.
Court records show she and Beal had filed jointly for bankruptcy in 2014 and the case was dismissed and closed Monday.
Krajnyak and Beal had met online in June 2016 and dated about a year and a half.
Photos on his Facebook page showed them living it up in far-flung places: a beach in Cuba, restaurants in Portugal, and riding jet skis in Mexico.
The romance cooled earlier this year after disputes over exclusivity and finances, FBI Special Agent Evan Jesch wrote.
They remained business partners, with Beal serving as spa manager, and the two operated a separate cosmetics firm.
The home of a homicide victim,Krajnyak, is seen after it was searched by police in Trabuco Canyon, California
The blast occurred on the first floor of the Aliso Viejo building in Orange County that was under renovation
Beal was listed on the spa’s lease because Krajnyak and her estranged husband had filed for bankruptcy, he said. Beal paid the $1,500 monthly rent and half the spa’s operating costs.
He had to loan Krajnyak money some months to cover her costs.
Beal was once an investment banker who turned to acting after his wife’s death several years ago, said friend and neighbor Steven Young. Beal appeared in several small films.
‘You can’t imagine him doing what we’ve been hearing,’ Young said, referring to the blast.
‘I don’t recall him ever being visibly angry at anything. He’s been a good neighbor and a good friend.’
Two officials told The Associated Press that investigators believe the blast was caused by an explosive package that was specifically targeting the office where the explosion occurred.
One of the officials said one of the victims was believed to be the target.
Investigators said they hadn’t yet located an explosive device and were searching through debris.
Mary McWilliams of San Clemente tells the Orange County Register that she saw two women with burns stagger out of the building.
Fire officials say a third person suffered smoke inhalation.
The Orange County district attorney’s office said it would provide an update on the investigation later Tuesday.