Advertisement

A relationship sours and disputes emerge over money and dating, raising questions in fatal Aliso Viejo explosion

A relationship sours and disputes emerge over money and dating, raising questions in fatal Aliso Viejo explosion
 

They met on a dating app in the summer of 2016. She was a skin care expert in her 40s who had recently filed for bankruptcy, he a widower who dabbled in acting and building model rockets.

In the year and a half or so that followed, Ildiko Krajnyak, 48, and Stephen Beal, 59, traveled extensively — vacationing in Cuba, Portugal and Canada — and decided to open a day spa together in Aliso Viejo.

Advertisement

Their romance soured, authorities said, over disputes about money and their dating exclusivity. In February or March, they broke up, but decided to stay business partners. Beal paid the $1,500 monthly rent for the spa space and half its operating costs. Sometimes, if Krajnyak didn't make enough, he'd loan her the rest.

Krajnyak was killed Tuesday when a cardboard package blew up at the the Magyar Kozmetika spa, causing a fiery explosion that tore open the ceiling and buckled the floor. Body parts flew into the parking lot.

Soon after, authorities made startling discoveries during a search of Beal's Long Beach home. They said they found two "complete" improvised explosive devices, two cardboard tubes, batteries, a nine-volt battery connector, 130 pounds of explosives and precursors, two handguns and a shotgun.

The findings were detailed in a 10-page affidavit and criminal complaint filed by federal authorities Thursday in U.S. District Court.

Beal faces one count of possessing an unregistered destructive device. He has not been charged in connection with the explosion.

During a brief court appearance Thursday afternoon, Beal wore street clothes and handcuffs, which were removed for the hearing. He was not asked to enter a plea, and his attorney declined to comment.

According to the court filing, Beal told investigators that Krajnyak was his former girlfriend and that he was a model rocket builder but dropped the hobby in 2004.

But on his personal website, Beal wrote that he builds and flies "large-scale" rockets and posted about rocket launches in an amateur rocketry Facebook group as recently as 2012. One of his rockets "exceeded Mach 2 in less than one second after launch," he wrote on his website.

When asked by investigators about one of the rocket devices, Beal first said he did not recognize it. Later, the filing said, he identified the device as a smoke detonator that releases smoke during flight so a rocket would stay visible.

When showed photographs of the two pipe IEDs, Beal initially said he didn't recognize them. But he later explained exactly where they were found. The affidavit said the devices were "not consistent with that of a model rocket."

Beal also said he once built a smaller device to help with his neighbor's gopher problem, the affidavit said. He told investigators that he saw news coverage of the explosion, and said he did not have material to create a blast that large, according to the affidavit.

Beal's wife, Christine, died in 2008, according to the Los Angeles County coroner. The coroner lists the manner of death as "undetermined," but points to pancreatitis, electrolyte imbalance and chronic lead intoxication as factors. She was 48.

A coroner's report obtained by Fox LA called the woman's death a "mysterious case," and notes that Beal was "uncooperative, not wanting to 'reveal' information to the hospital staff about" his wife or her medical history. Christine Beal had been vomiting for four to five days and was admitted into the intensive care unit at Community Hospital of Long Beach, according to the report.

A claim he filed to obtain a $21,225 payout from his wife's life insurance policy was denied at least once, according to court records from his 2009 bankruptcy filing. It's unclear if he ever received the money.

Advertisement

Neighbor Steven Young, 63, said Christine Beal had fallen down a curved staircase while moving furniture in the family's home. He also said he sometimes saw Beal in his garage, working on rockets. Beal would go to the desert near Edwards Air Force Base to launch them with his children.

"He's a good neighbor," Young said. "It's hard to fathom that he would be involved in something like this."

On his website, Beal said he worked as an executive consultant before turning to acting and performing. "His love of performing comes from a deep love of being seen," his biography reads.

His profile on the Internet Movie Database lists 15 credited roles, mostly in short films and television programs.

Documents filed in court also provided graphic details of the violent blast. One of the two people injured told investigators that she and her mother had finished their spa treatments when they approached the front counter to pay Krajnyak.

The woman said she noticed mail piled up along with three to four brown cardboard boxes on the floor next to the front counter. Krajnyak picked up one of the boxes, the woman said, placed it on the counter and started to open it with a tool.

That's when the device exploded, blowing the woman backward and onto the floor, the filing said. Flames and smoke enveloped the spa. The woman's mother told investigators she was knocked to the ground and saw "everything on fire."

The women, who had burns and cuts, left the building and waited for help. They did not see what happened to Krajnyak.

Glass from the business was blown into the parking lot, the affidavit said. Near the blast, investigators found a 9-volt battery, a cellphone and melted scraps that looked like duct tape and loose wires.

In addition to Beal's home and his Toyota Prius, law enforcement officials searched other locations Wednesday, including the two-story building that housed the spa, Krajnyak's home in Trabuco Canyon and her Lexus sedan. Authorities are examining the victim's romantic, personal and financial relationships, sources familiar with the investigation said.

In paperwork filed with the California secretary of state last month, Beal listed Krajnyak as the chief executive officer of a skin care and retail company called I and S Enterprises Inc. Beal listed himself as the corporation's secretary and chief financial officer.

Krajnyak worked for three decades as an aesthetician, according to public records and her LinkedIn account.

"She worked so, so hard, always trying to make money to support her family and send her son to private school," said a neighbor who identified herself only as Tiffany. "She would go on trips, come back home and 45 minutes later, walk back out, heading to work."

Times staff writers Brittny Mejia, Samantha Masunaga and Cindy Carcamo contributed to this report.

javier.panzar@latimes.com

Twitter: @jpanzar

Advertisement

richard.winton@latimes.com

Twitter: @LAcrimes

Twitter: @AleneTchek

Advertisement
Advertisement