Reporting from San Diego — Authorities are trying to piece together how — and why — a 54-year-old Serbian emigre acquired large quantities of explosive ingredients that could be used to make the kind of bombs favored by terrorists, including insurgents trying to kill U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The work of a squad of local, state and federal explosives experts is being made more difficult because the one-story, stucco house in a leafy Escondido-area neighborhood where the material was found is considered too dangerous to reenter.
Investigators carted off several computers and numerous written documents in hopes of finding a motive for the alleged actions of George Djura Jakubec, a naturalized U.S. citizen, who faces 26 bomb-making charges and two counts of bank robbery, all felonies.
Jakubec, who was on probation for a 2009 burglary conviction when arrested last week, remains in jail in lieu of $5-million bail.
The list of items seized from Jakubec's rental house in the 1900 block of Via Scott and his backyard represents a virtual shopping list for bomb-makers, investigators said. Among the items are several kinds of acid, as well as hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD) and pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN).
PETN is a plastic explosive that was used by so-called shoe-bomber Richard Reid and is considered by terrorism experts as the weapon of choice of Al Qaeda bombers. It also is one of the main ingredients that the Transportation Security Administration is looking for with its new full-body screening and pat-down procedures for airline passengers.
Also seized at the house just outside the Escondido city limits were homemade grenades, blasting caps, firearms and 50 pounds of hexamine, a bomb-making material, according to court documents.
The house, where Jakubec has lived for less than three years, has been sealed. A San Diego County sheriff's deputy is stationed nearby to prevent all but residents of the dead-end street from driving by.
Jakubec lived alone in the house, which he apparently had ringed with security cameras. Neighbors said he kept to himself and was basically unknown to them.
His estranged wife, reportedly a Russian emigre, attended his arraignment Monday at San Diego County Superior Court in Vista, where he pleaded not guilty.
Rushing past reporters, Marina Ivanova said her husband is a "good man" and she still loves him, but that he had become "an obsessive collector" in recent years.
"He is crazy," she said tearfully as a sheriff's deputy escorted her to her car. "I think he lost his mind, he lost his mind or something."
Investigators who have been inside the house describe it in terms consistent with the habitat of someone classified as a compulsive hoarder.
The floor, tables, desks, chairs and virtually every horizontal surface were covered with papers, boxes, documents, cans, jars and other things. Even as they picked their way around the house for evidence on two separate occasions, investigators were careful not to jostle or step on things that could prove volatile or explosive.
Enough evidence was gathered inside the house for the weapons and bank robbery charges, investigators said. There is no suggestion that Jakubec was a suspect in the bank robberies before authorities searched the house.
The bomb investigation began when a gardener was injured Nov. 18 in an explosion when he stepped on something in the backyard. As the gardener was taken to the hospital, sheriff's deputies rushed to the scene of the explosion, which had frightened neighbors.
"Jakubec denied having anything explosive in the backyard, and appeared evasive and nervous during his conversation with the fire captain," according to an affidavit by sheriff's Det. Benny Cruz. "… During their conversation, Jakubec tried to change the topic several times and was not forthcoming with some of the responses."
Later in the conversation, Cruz wrote, Jakubec admitted having explosive materials.
Cruz said experts on the scene determined that the materials are "extremely sensitive to shock, friction and heat, making it very dangerous to manufacture and handle." The explosive materials, the affidavit states, are like those "currently being used in Iraq and Afghanistan by terrorist cells."
Jakubec was arrested on the spot.
Later, the Sheriff's Department's bomb squad sent a robotic device into the house to scan the interior. Bomb specialists also supervised several small controlled detonations. A stretch of nearby Interstate 15 was shut down.
Nearby houses were evacuated — residents of the two closest houses have yet to be allowed to return to the blue-collar neighborhood.
Prosecutors said Jakubec is an unemployed software consultant. He has a contractor's license and, in 1980, received a pilot's license, according to public records.
He told investigators that he makes frequent trips to Mexico, although it is unknown whether he bought the explosive materials there.
After the Thanksgiving weekend, bomb experts from a variety of agencies are set to confer on a plan to reenter Jakubec's house to gather additional evidence.
Jakubec is due back in court Dec. 3.