Ildiko Krajnyak had just finished spa treatments for two women when the bomb exploded

By Christine Pelisek
October 03, 2019 10:00 AM

The May 2018 explosion at the Magyar Kozmetika spa blew open the building’s ceiling and shattered the windows.

Ildiko Krajnyak, who owned the Aliso Viejo, California, spa and had just finished spa treatments for two women, died instantly.

Her two customers were injured in the blast but survived. One of them told authorities that Krajnyak, a 48-year-old esthetician, was at her desk opening a brown cardboard package when the box exploded.

Her violent death shocked her friends who described her as a doting mother to her college-age son and a free spirit who loved shoe shopping and taking care of her loyal clientele.

“She was so sweet,” her friend Kris Wilson tells PEOPLE. “She would go to Budapest to go visit her family, and she’d come home with gifts for like 30 of her friends. We’d see her and she’d have all these little knick-knacks she’d brought back for all of us.”

Ildiko Krajnyak

“She came to parties of ours,” says Tiffany Wheeler Erazo, a client and friend. “She came to our weddings, baby showers.”

In March 2019, ten months after the deadly explosion, federal authorities arrested Krajnyak’s spa partner and former boyfriend Stephen Beal, accusing the community theater actor of making the improvised explosive device.

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Among other things, authorities said they found bits of wire at the scene that forensically was indistinguishable from wire used in a homemade device found at Beal’s home. Chemicals detected at the bombing site were allegedly similar to those found inside Beal’s car.

Beal denied having anything to do with the explosion, stating he had chemicals in his garage for making fireworks and model rockets because he was a model rocket hobbyist.

Beal admitted that his relationship with Krajnyak had “cooled” by early 2018.

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During a trip they took to Portugal in March 2018, he said Krajnyak told him she had begun an “intimate relationship” with another man. Beal allegedly said he felt “hurt and betrayed.”

Stephen Beal

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Two friends of Krajnyak’s also told investigators about issues she was having with Beal. One friend said Krajnyak confided that “her boyfriend was jealous, controlling and possessive of her.”

Another friend alleged that Krajnyak was afraid Beal would “follow her and harm her.”

Ildiko Krajnyak and Stephen Beal

Meanwhile, Beal’s friends don’t believe the widower would ever be involved in such a gruesome crime.

He’s “always so gentle and so calm,” Surf City Theatre Company’s executive director Lisa Leonard, who cast Beal in her play 12 Angry Jurors, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “In my estimation, they’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“I never saw him mad or angry,” says neighbor Steven Young. “I find it very hard to believe that he did what he’s been accused of, and he just never did anything that would make me believe that he was capable of that.”

Beal has been jailed since his arrest. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial is tentatively scheduled for July 2020.