Local News

Thursday, Dec 26 2013 06:45 PM

The secret life of Bodfish's Paul Morningstar

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    A Kern County Sheriff's bomb squad robot was used at the home of Paul Morningstar on North Salaine Drive in Bodfish Dec. 21. The robot was needed because the home and yard had been booby-trapped. Morningstar, 66, was found dead in the home from an accidental shotgun wound.

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BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer slevin@bakersfield.com

Someone was out to kill Paul Morningstar.

At least that's what Paul Morningstar thought.

So he booby-trapped the inside and outside of his Bodfish home on North Salaine Drive with homemade bombs made from shotgun shells and mousetraps.

But instead of protecting him, it's possible one of those devices caused his death.

Morningstar, believed to be in his 60s, was found in his home Saturday by county deputies, who, warned of numerous booby-traps, used robots to gain access.

He was last seen Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 18, on his bike, returning from his almost daily ride to the post office. There, the well-known maker of cycling tools would mail packages to clients around the world.

Ted Brummer, who lives just a house away from Morningstar's home, was on his front porch and saw him ride by. That night, Brummer was busy with friends.

Two days later, a neighbor shared disturbing news with Brummer: The neighbor had heard an explosion at Morningstar's home Wednesday night, followed by what sounded like moaning.

That same day -- Friday, Dec. 20 -- Brummer knocked on Morningstar's front door and several windows, without getting a response.

Kern County Sheriff's deputies were called afterward.

"For maybe six, seven, eight years Paul's been under the delusion that someone wants to murder him," Brummer said Thursday. "He was super paranoid."

Morningstar was positive he was a target. He might call Brummer over to his property to look at a single footprint "that could be mine or anybody else's," Brummer said.

Sheriff's deputies visited Morningstar's home three times in 2006 and 2007, twice to check on his welfare and once for a burglary call. A sheriff's spokesman said records show no case resulted from the burglary investigation.

Morningstar's company, Morningstar Tools, was better known in cycling circles than locally. For several years he maintained a table at the annual Keyesville Classic mountain bike stage race near Lake Isabella where he offered free bike repairs.

A nature lover, he fed pancakes regularly to a coyote and tried to maintain a small carbon footprint. He used the library and a McDonald's for wifi connections.

When he injured himself in a bike accident, he connected a car battery with wires to a water basin filled with aluminum nitrate and silver nitrate. He would treat his injured areas with the solution.

Neighbors commented -- to themselves -- about the silvery, almost greenish tint of Morningstar's skin.

He had no visitors. He was estranged from his daughter and ex-wife, Brummer said. He kept two pistols and two rifles at his home.

Until three years ago, Brummer, 67, who is retired, just figured Morningstar was particularly eccentric.

But then his neighbor told him he'd rigged a trip wire with a flare between his kitchen door and garage, "something to scare people off with" he told Brummer.

Around that same time, Brummer was spraying weed killer on a rocky area between his house and the unoccupied home that separated him from Morningstar.

"'Ted, you're a murderer,'" Morningstar accused him, after walking over and watching. "'You're a killer. I didn't know you were so evil.'

"All that for spraying weeds," Brummer said.

Morningstar intensely disliked former President George H.W. Bush, accusing him of causing 9/11. Brummer forbade Morningstar from broaching politics whenever he came over when Brummer had friends for a cookout.

"We don't talk about this stuff anymore," Brummer would say, and in less than a minute Morningstar would leave for home.

"He just marched to his own drum," Brummer said. "He probably kept a lot of secrets."

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