BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer email@example.com
Paul Morningstar was a well known tool and die maker in Bodfish. The fixtures and tools he fashioned for cyclists earned him friends — and customers — around the world.
But Morningstar also liked building bombs.
Beginning Saturday and continuing through Tuesday morning, Kern County bomb squads have been detonating devices placed both in and outside Morningstar’s home at 52 North Salaine Drive.
Morningstar himself is dead. His body was found by sheriff’s deputies Saturday morning after they gained entrance to the residence using robots.
Beyond a briefing Sunday night in Bodfish, the sheriff’s office has repeatedly declined to answer questions about the incident or circumstances surrounding Morningstar’s death.
Residents of the quiet street have seen the county’s bomb squad at Morningstar’s home for five consecutive days, beginning Friday night when deputies first went to the residence after a neighbor asked them to check on Morningstar’s welfare.
The neighbor warned deputies that Morningstar may have booby-trapped the property.
Saturday, two live bombs and one described as “expended” were found.
A third live bomb was found Sunday.
Residents heard detonations both Monday and Tuesday, the latter a bomb that was detonated in the yard.
Born and raised in Chicago’s South Side, Morningstar spent three years at Purdue University studying industrial electrial systems, and several years at Chicago-area Prairie State College, working on tool and die, specifically stamping.
According to Morningstar’s own company website, www.Morningstar Tools.com, he worked in steel mills and nuclear power plants for about 30 years.
The combination of his experience and love of cycling led him to create a variety of service tools for amateur and professional cyclists that enabled them to more easily service and repair their bikes.
Whether is was a “Rim ‘Rench” for inward dents in any bike rim wall — his most famous tool — or the T/Rale Tool, which was part trail tool, tire lever, rotor fork and emergency bottle opener, Morningstar’s tools shipped around the world.
But you couldn’t buy them online.
Morningstar’s webmaster, Martin Simard, of Quebec City, Canada, said in an interview that he had asked him if he “wanted to go to another level” with merchandising his tool designs.
“He told me no,” said Simard, a website developer. “He preferred talking to his customers. A lot of people know Paul everywhere. He sold tools all over the world. He did it to help bikers.”
Simard never met Morningstar, but corresponded with him for the past three years about the website. Morningstar sponsored a mountain bike club in Quebec City for the past two years, Simard said.
The last communication Simard had with Morningstar was an email on Dec. 10, discussing the possible revamping of parts of the website.
He said he had no knowledge about Morningstar’s proclivity for bomb making, and his death came as “a real big surprise.”
He learned of it when the Kern County Coroner’s office sent an email through Morningstar’s website.
“When I read it for the first time I thought it was a scam,” Simard said.
When he called the sheriff’s office, deputies asked him to help find Morningstar’s next of kin.
“He was a great inventor and a great friend,” Simard wrote in an email to The Californian. “History proves that genius have sometime big problems.”