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A federal judge ruled Monday that Stephen Beal, who is charged with possessing an unregistered explosive device found during a search of his Long Beach home and is an ex-boyfriend of a woman who died in an explosion last week in Aliso Viejo, must remain in custody without bail.
The judge agreed with prosecutors’ contention that the 59-year-old is a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Assistant United States Attorney Mark Takla told Magistrate Judge Karen E. Scott that despite the alleged explosive material being taken from Beal’s home, he represents a danger if allowed free.
“It shows a callous disregard for his neighbors, keeping that much explosives in his garage,” Takla said. “The danger is the defendant’s knowledge.”
Takla also told the judge that Beal at times lied to investigators, including initially claiming not to know anything about the devices found at his home.
Beal’s attorney, Federal Public Defender Amy Karlin, unsucessfully sought her client’s release on a $100,000 appearance bond combined with electronic monitoring.
Karlin denied that Beal is a flight risk, since he is a lifelong California resident and his family lives in the state. She also cited unspecified health concerns and monthly treatments Beal is required to undergo.
“The court should look at what he is charged with. He is not charged with anything related to that explosion,” Karlin said, referring to the fatal Aliso Viejo blast. “Not what has been in the media, not on television, what is in the complaint.”
Along with the arguments raised by prosecutors, the magistrate judge said she was also concerned about Beal’s mental health, noting that reports to the court had cited his being on disability due to lead poisoning. The prosecutor referenced Beal’s having suffered psychosomatic symptoms and hallucinations in 2004.
Beal has not yet entered a plea. Dressed in a jail jumpsuit rather than the street clothes he wore to his first court hearing on Thursday, Beal appeared at ease as he spoke to his attorney, listening intently and at times smiling.
While Beal’s arrest came in the midst of an ongoing investigation into a powerful blast at an Aliso Viejo day spa that killed ildiko Krajnyak, 48, and injured two other women, he has not been charged in connection to the deadly explosion.
The women who survived the blast told investigators that the explosive had been inside one of several cardboard boxes that were on the floor of the day spa next to unopened mail. As they approached the front counter, according to one of the women, Krajnyak picked up the box, placing it on the counter and opening it with a tool, according to an affidavit written by an FBI agent.
The box exploded as soon as Krajnyak opened it, the women told investigators, knocking them to the ground and setting the business aflame. First responders arrived to find Krajnyak’s remains outside of a broken window and in the parking lot of an adjacent building, according to the court filing.
Federal authorities last week acknowledged that “the exact means by which the explosive incident was carried out has not yet been determined.” But out-of-place items found near the center of the blast – described in the affidavit as a 9-volt battery, a cell phone, melted material believed to be duct tape and loose wires – left them little doubt the explosion was intentional.
Beal, Krajnyak’s ex-boyfriend and co-owner with her of the business destroyed in the blast, told FBI agents that he learned of the explosion from his current girlfriend, who learned of it via news reports, the court filing says.
Beal’s Long Beach home was one of several locations searched by authorities in connection to the explosion. Among the items authorities reported finding at his home were two completed improvised devices, three firearms and various materials that could be used to build more IEDs.
Beal told investigators that he is a model-rocket hobbyist, according to the federal affidavit, and said that prior to Sept. 11, 2001 he had also made fireworks, including mortars. He also acknowledged building a smaller “device” at one point to help a neighbor with a gopher problem, according to the court filing.
Beal denied that he had ever made any bombs or “anything that would catch on or cause a fire,” according to the affidavit. He also said that he didn’t have material to create an explosion as large as the one at the day spa, according to the filing.
An agent in a handwritten notation in the affidavit indicating that the devices at Beal’s home were “not consistent with that of a model rocket.”
“There is really no legitimate reason to have these devices at his house,” Takla said during Monday’s hearing.
Nearly a week after the explosion, a team of Orange County Sheriff’s Department and FBI investigators are still meticulously sifting through the remnants of the day spa, with suspicious items being flown to the FBI’s state-of-the-art crime lab in Quantico, Va. for further study.
Investigators have not publicly identified Beal as a suspect or person of interest in the killing of Krajnyak. They have also not definitely stated whether Krajnyak is believed to have been the intended target of the intentional explosion, or how the package containing the device ended up at the day spa.
Beal is scheduled to return to federal court on May 31.