ALISO VIEJO, Calif. (AP) — A former boyfriend of a woman killed in a California office building explosion has been arrested on suspicion of possessing an unregistered destructive device, the FBI said Thursday.
The arrest of Stephen Beal, 59, followed a search of his Long Beach residence by authorities, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a statement. He was not being held in connection with Tuesday’s explosion and was expected to appear in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana later Thursday.
Beal, a rocket enthusiast and actor in several short films, had been in a relationship with Ildiko Krajnyak — the woman killed in the explosion — but they had recently broken up, according to his son, Nathan Beal.
He and his father build sport rockets, which are fuelled by a propellant called hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, that Nathan Beal said is commercially and legally available at specialty hobby stores.
Asked about the FBI allegation that his father possessed a destructive device, Nathan Beal said, “That seems highly unlikely.” Authorities have not disclosed what kind of explosive material was used in the blast.
The biggest of the father-son rockets used about 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) of fuel divided among multiple motors, he said. “Probably what they found were motor cases made out of aluminum,” he said. State documents show Stephen Beal and Krajnyak as officers in a skin care business called I&S Enterprises.
Authorities have declined to publicly say if they believed the victim was the target of the blast. But one official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press the woman had been the intended recipient of an explosive package. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to disclose details about the investigation.
Remnants of a device were found inside the badly damaged spa where the powerful explosion shook the city of Aliso Viejo, about 50 miles (81 kilometers) south of Los Angeles. The blast tore a corner off the building that houses medical offices. Two patrons were seriously injured.
“We do not believe this was an accident,” said Paul Delacourt, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s field office in Los Angeles. “Although the damage was extensive, there are some components that we have located at the scene of the explosion that are inconsistent with what one might expect to find at this business.”
Laszlo Krajnyak said from his home in Tiszaujvaros, Hungary, that his sister had been visiting him and had left the country just days before the blast. Nearly choking up at times, he said he had visited his sister for two weeks last month in order to help her with her business.
He said he heard about the bombing from news coverage. Photos on Beal’s Facebook page showed him vacationing with Krajnyak in Cuba, sitting together on a beach, and riding jet skis in Mexico and shopping in Portugal.
Stuart Davis, who lives a few doors down from 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 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. The Associated Press left messages seeking comment at a telephone number and email listed for Beal and at numbers listed for his representatives on his acting website.
An attorney who previously represented him in a bankruptcy case did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment and Beal’s son said he was uncertain if his father had retained an attorney. Investigators were working to determine a motive for the blast and figure out exactly how the device got to the spa, Delacourt said.
Friends of the victim set up a fundraising campaign to cover her funeral costs and fly her son home from Seattle, where he attends college. Krajnyak’s business in Orange County offered services such as facials, waxing and wrinkle treatments.
Search warrants were served at the business and two other locations — Beal’s home in Long Beach and Krajnyak’s house in Trabuco Canyon. A neighbor of Krajnyak who would only give her first name as Tiffany said Krajnyak lived there with her estranged husband and mother, whom she cared for.
Court records show the couple had filed jointly for bankruptcy in 2014 and the case was dismissed and closed Monday. The two-story building where the explosion had blown siding off the walls and shattered windows was closed Thursday as bomb technicians and investigators from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sifted through debris.