Long Beach man arrested in Aliso Viejo beauty shop bombing that killed ex-girlfriend
LONG BEACH — The FBI on Sunday took a Long Beach man into custody in connection with a 2018 bombing at an Aliso Viejo beauty salon that killed his former girlfriend.
FBI agents also searched the home of the suspect, Stephen Beal, a 59-year-old part-time actor, on Sunday afternoon, FBI agent Laura Eimiller said.
Beal was arrested while he was at a bank ATM at about 11 a.m., Eimiller said. An armored vehicle was used to ram the garage door at his home to gain entry, she said.
The arrest and raid followed an investigation into the death of 48-year-old Ildiko Krajnyak, killed in the May explosion at the Magyar Kozmetika day spa she operated.
Investigators have not released a motive for the bombing but think Krajnyak was specifically targeted.
The explosive device itself is believed to have been assembled from items that could have been easily purchased at retail stores, investigators have said.
Federal and local investigators collected more than 1,000 pieces of evidence from the blast, at least 300 of which were sent to the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Virginia. They also have recovered terabytes of data from electronic accounts as well as security camera footage.
FBI agents have also conducted numerous interviews, including some in Hungary with Krajnyak’s relatives.
The explosion rang out shortly after 1 p.m. in a suite occupied by the Magyar Kozmetika day spa. Windows and doors in the bottom floor unit were blown away, as was the ceiling of the spa. Witnesses rushing to help found two women walking outside of building, covered in ash and soot and suffering from severe burns.
Police quickly cleared the area, leaving a large crowd watching emergency responders. Firefighters and bomb squad personnel found Krajnyak’s remains outside of a broken window in a parking lot.
They also recovered a nine-volt battery, a mobile phone and melted material that appeared to be duct tape and loose wires, leading them to quickly conclude the explosion was man-made.
Investigators spoke to the two women who survived the blast as they recuperated at a hospital. The women told authorities the bomb had been in one of several cardboard boxes in a mix of unopened mail at the spa.
As soon as Krajnyak opened the box, it exploded, throwing the women backward. One of the women told investigators she saw “everything on fire” after the blast.
Soon after the explosion FBI agents interviewed Beal, part-owner of the spa, who became the focus of the case.
An FBI agent would later outline their conversation with Beal in a sworn statement filed in federal court.
Beal and Krajnyak had met through an online dating website in 2016, he told investigators, and had dated for a year-and-a-half before their relationship cooled over “exclusivity” and “financial issues.”
Beal claimed he paid half the rent for the day spa and half its operating costs and would sometimes have to loan money to Krajnyak to cover the remaining expenses.
Photos on Beal’s Facebook page showed he and Kranjyak vacationing in Mexico and a website outlining his part-time acting career.
Within days of the bombing FBI agents searched Beal’s home where they said they found two completed improvised explosive devices, three firearms, and chemicals and material that could be used to build other IEDs.
Beal told investigators he used the materials for his model rocket hobby.
He acknowledged to agents that at one point he had made a smaller explosive device to assist a neighbor with a gopher problem, and had built fireworks, including mortars, but stopped after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., because he did not want to “give the wrong impression,” according to a court records..
However, federal investigators were not convinced, writing in court filings that the devices at Beal’s home were “not consistent with that of a model rocket.”
Beal was arrested and charged at that time with possessing an unregistered explosive device but was not charged in connection with Krajnyak’s death. However, a little more than a week later, the U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped the charges against Beal, with prosecutors explaining the device he possessed may have been legal.
Neighbors have said Beal claimed his first wife had died in a freak accident. Los Angeles County coroner’s records indicate Christine Beal died in 2008 at age 48. The records list her cause of death as “undetermined,” but mentioned “pancreatitis, electrolyte imbalance” and “chronic lead intoxication.”
However, court records showed that, in 2010, Beal had won a $500,000 settlement from an insurance company after claiming his wife died from traumatic pancreatitis after falling down a flight of stairs while carrying a 49-pound end table.
An investigation into her death, opened after his arrest on the federal charges, is being handled by the Long Beach Police Department, apart from the FBI and Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s probe into the bombing.
Information was not available on whether Long Beach police have completed their investigation.
Kathy Chatham watched Sunday afternoon as law officers rolled up to Beal’s home in the armored vehicle. “They finally got him,” she said, recalling her thoughts as federal agents entered the dwelling. “But nothing is set in stone. They arrested him before. I hope they have enough evidence to put him away.”
Beal was being held at the Santa Ana city jail on Sunday night, Eimiller said. The FBI plans to release more details on Monday regarding his arrest in connection with the bombing.