07:17 AM PDT on Friday, October 9, 2009
By GENE GHIOTTO and SARAH BURGE
A Lake Elsinore man was hospitalized after blowing off most of his hand, and his mother and brother are in jail after bomb materials and a marijuana-growing operation were discovered at the family home, which doubles as a day care center, law enforcement officials said.
Benjamin Kuzelka, 23, was being treated at Loma Linda University Medical Center, officials said.
His brother, Grey Kuzelka, 21, and his mother, Rebecca Kuzelka, 55, were arrested and booked in connection with the manufacturing of explosives, felony child endangerment and a marijuana growing operation at the home, said Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez, a spokesman for the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
When deputies searched Kuzelka's home in the 30500 block of Audello Street near Alvarado Street, they discovered marijuana growing in one room and potentially explosive materials hidden in the back yard, Sgt. Pat Chavez said.
Rebecca Kuzelka operates the Kuzelka Family Daycare Center in the home for children ages 2 to 5. Her permit allowed her to care for up to eight children, Chavez said.
Oscar Ramirez, spokesman for the state department of Social Services, said the agency is coordinating with law enforcement to investigate. Information on previous problems with the child care center were not immediately available, Ramirez said.
Chavez said the inside of the home was a bit disheveled but appeared normal at first glance. There was a play area for the children and a changing table, as well as a feeding schedule on the wall.
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Special to The Press-Enterprise
Benjamin Kuzelka, 23, left, Grey Kuzelka, 21, and Rebecca Kuzelka, 55, right.
'HARD NOT TO NOTICE'
Rebecca Kuzelka told police she didn't know about the explosives and marijuana.
"But it would be hard not to notice that room," Chavez said, adding that it was equipped with lights and other sophisticated marijuana-growing equipment.
Benjamin Kuzelka will be arrested once he has recovered enough to be released from the hospital, Gutierrez said. All three are expected to be in court next week to face charges.
The bomb-making materials did not appear to be related to any terrorist activities, said Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Pat Chavez.
Benjamin Kuzelka eventually admitted to deputies that he had been in the garage handling an unstable liquid he had manufactured when it exploded, Chavez said. He said that he had researched bomb-making on the Internet and claimed that he was just doing it for fun, Chavez said.
Benjamin Kuzelka arrived at a local hospital claiming that he shot himself in the hand at about 11:50 p.m. Wednesday. The injuries -- four fingers were blown off and he suffered injuries to his face and chest -- were not consistent with a gunshot wound and hospital officials reported it to the Sheriff's Department.
"We found one of his fingers in the garage," Chavez said, explaining that it was in a toolbox. It was unclear what became of the other three missing fingers.
Kuzelka had made triacetone triperoxide, a very volatile compound, Chavez said. It is similar to the explosive used by Muslim terrorists who bombed London's subway system in July 2005, killing 56 and injuring 700.
Investigators also found inside the house a copy of the "Anarchist Cookbook," a book written by Vietnam War protester William Powell in 1970 that includes bomb-making recipes.
Apparently, Kuzelka's brother, Grey Kuzelka, had tried to clean up and hide the bomb-making materials before deputies arrived, moving them from the garage to the back yard, Chavez said.
Court records show that Benjamin Charles Kuzelka was convicted following an October 2007 arrest for transporting marijuana for sale and possession of a controlled substance. He was also convicted this year of possession of a controlled substance.
Grey Kuzelka was arrested last Saturday on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sale and was released the next day.
The property where the blast occurred sits at the northeast end of a cul-de-sac in an older area of Lake Elsinore. Thursday, a disabled sports car sat on a concrete pad next to a small red pickup. Police tape blocked the entrance to the street, and only law enforcement, fire and emergency medical vehicles were allowed inside the area.
Riverside County bomb squad officials spent much of the morning and part of the afternoon removing the bomb-making materials from the property and putting them into a sheriff's bomb squad vehicle for detonation. The first intentional blast occurred about 6:30 a.m. Thursday.
Tony Hellickson, who lives about a block away from the home, said he was jolted from sleep by an explosion about 6:30 this morning.
"My heart just jumped," he said. Hellickson said he thought it was an earthquake at first, but he got in his car and drove around the neighborhood, finding police had blocked off a nearby street.
Riverside County bomb squad deputies detonated another batch of materials just before 1 p.m. Thursday.
Nicole Kirkpatrick, who lives several blocks from Audello Street, said she has taken a neighbor's child to the Kuzelka day care center several times and had been in the house but did not notice anything unusual. She had come to the scene to see what was going on.
"I really want to know what that guy was going to do with that stuff," Kirkpatrick said. "Maybe he was just a kid messing around. I really want to know what this person was going to do."
Reach Gene Ghiotto at 951-375-3729 or gghiotto@PE.com
Reach Sarah Burge at 951-375-3736 or sburge@PE.com
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Tags: explosion, grow house, day care, hand injury, Press Enterprise
Location: Lake Elsinore, California, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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