A Long Beach man who was "obsessed and infatuated'' with the owner of an Aliso Viejo day spa built a powerful bomb that killed the woman and injured two others after she broke up with him, a prosecutor told a federal jury Thursday -- but a defense lawyer said the FBI arrested the wrong person and ignored "obvious suspects.''
Stephen Beal, 63, faces federal charges in downtown Los Angeles of use of a weapon of mass destruction, malicious destruction of a building resulting in death, use of a destructive device in a crime of violence and possession of an unregistered destructive device.
Beal was arrested in March 2019 in connection with the May 15, 2018, explosion that killed 48-year-old Ildiko Krajnyak, who co-owned the Magyar Kozmetica day spa with Beal, and critically injured a mother and daughter.
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"This is a case about obsession, infatuation and control,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Annamartine Salick said in her opening statement.
When Krajnyak rejected Beal and made no secret of dating other men, he "channeled his humiliation into hatching a plan to take revenge,'' the prosecutor said.
FBI officials said Krajnyak was killed when she opened a cardboard box near the front desk of the Magyar Kozmetica spa, triggering the explosive device inside. The force of the massive explosion ripped Krajnyak's body apart and destroyed the building.
Defense attorney Craig Harbaugh, however, told the panel that the FBI was "desperate to find the person responsible as soon as possible,'' and immediately settled on Beal after the defendant called police himself after hearing of the explosion and submitted to three interviews over 12 hours.
Beal "had nothing to hide,'' Harbaugh said in his presentation, alleging that the FBI "disregarded clear evidence of Mr. Beal's innocence.''
According to the defense, Beal had no motive to harm Krajnyak.
"They were lovers, close friends and business partners,'' Harbaugh said. "Mr. Beal never had a harsh word to say about her. She cherished their relationship -- and so did he.''
Beal showed no emotion as the attorneys spoke.
Salick presented to the jury what she said were pieces of wire found at the bombing scene that matched wire discovered during a search of Beal's home. About a week before the explosion, Beal was seen on surveillance video purchasing the type of battery used in the explosive device, the federal prosecutor said.
Beal also allegedly purchased three cardboard boxes similar to the one that contained the bomb, and federal officials contend he was one of the few people to have access to the business and was seen at the spa days before the blast, when they contend the bomb was planted.
Harbaugh told jurors that while his client had a history of building and launching "hobby rockets'' and making fireworks, any wire or other materials found in his home had no connection to the bomb.
Following the blast, investigators reported finding two improvised explosive devices, three unregistered firearms and more than 100 pounds of explosive material at Beal's home.
"What Mr. Beal did for fun, the FBI viewed as a threat,'' the defense attorney said. "And the FBI made a snap judgment.''
To illustrate what she called Beal's "burning obsession'' with Krajnyak, the prosecutor played a portion of a tape of the defendant reading a love poem he wrote for the victim.
"I love that we will grow old together,'' the poem read. "I love that you are the last voice I hear before I go to sleep. I love how you nurture me ... you complete me.''
Beal faces a potential life prison sentence if convicted as charged, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
He has been in federal custody since his arrest.