Toolmaker Paul Morningstar Found Dead in Booby-Trapped California Home

Gear News
Update: Jan 1, 2014 by Francis Cebedo

Police used a bomb squad robot similar to this one to enter Morningstar’s home.

According to updates in The Bakersfield Californian, Paul Morningstar died of a gunshot wound, most likely from one of his booby trapped ‘bombs’ in his own home.  Paul was seen biking to the post office by his neighbor Ted Brummer and later that evening, Ted who was busy with friends heard an ‘explosion or bang’ from Paul’s home.  Ted knocked on the door and several windows two days later and when he could not get a response, notified authorities.

Warned of possible booby traps, police used a bomb-squad robot to enter the house.  They discovered three bobby-traps, one of which was a shotgun triggered by mousetraps that seemed to have fired and caused Paul’s death.

Morningstar lived in Bodfish, CA, a small town east of Bakersfield.

According to Ted Brummer, Paul was a good natured guy but with very firm beliefs about protecting nature and wildlife coupled with some strong feelings about politics.  Paul also believed that someone, a specific person, was out to kill him.  It was this particular paranoia that led him to start booby-trapping his own home. It started with a flare and a trip wire between the kitchen and the garage and then led to shotguns and mousetrap devices.

In the bike industry, Paul Morningstar was known as genius and a problem solver. In an age where tools are sleek, refined and mass produced by big companies, Paul found a niche in designing and making his own tools that solve specific problems. His Drumstix and Rim Rench are examples where one straightens out a bent rim and the other a warped or bent disc brake rotor.  These are common problems in cycling but few tools exist that solve these problems like the Morningstar tools.

Morningstar ROC Tech Tool.

According to his customers at, Paul was kind and personable over the phone and email.  He loved to talk and help solve issues whenever he had the opportunity.  He even had a booth at the vintage bike pilgrimage called the Keyesville Classic bike race.  Here, Paul sold his tools and fixed any bike issue for free.

But he did have a paranoid side. His friend John who spoke with him weekly said that Morningstar believed that a guy was out to kill him for the last eight years. John tried to convince him otherwise and of seeking legal and police help about this issue to no avail.  Morningstar contacted the DA and local police to help him keep this guy away from him but it’s possible the police wrote him off as delusional.

So it is likely his own fears killed him in this unfortunate incident.  But as his friend Paul put it nicely, “he was a great mechanic and problem solver”. And customer Mike Tierney said that Paul had a heart of gold as he sent used stamps from all over the world to Mike’s wife who was a stamp collector. RIP Paul Morningstar.

Dec. 26, 2013 by Don Palermini

This photo of toolmaker Paul Morningstar is from his website. Morningstar was found dead in his Bodfish, Calif. home on Saturday.

‏‏The Bakersfield Californian newspaper is reporting that bicycle toolmaker Paul Morningstar was found dead Saturday in his Bodfish, Calif. home that had been booby trapped with several bombs. Acting on a concerned neighbor’s tip about Morningstar’s wellbeing–and that his property might be booby trapped–police approached the situation with caution sending bomb squad robots into the home after getting no response on attempts to make contact. Officials have found at least four explosive devices on the property and continue to search for more.

‏Morningstar, whose tools like the Freehub Buddy–a tool for injecting grease in freehub bodies–and the Rim ‘Rench–a tool for straightening bent rim beads, enjoy a cult-like following of professional and home mechanics alike, and are still widely available in bike shops and online. A well-known tool and die maker in the area, Morningstar is presumed to have built the explosive devices.

‏The Kern County Sheriff’s Police have not yet released a cause of death in the incident, and Morningstar’s exact age is unknown. According to the website, he was originally from Chicago and studied electrical systems and tool and die making in college.

‏A message of sympathy from Morningstar’s webmaster Martin Simard, a contractor from Quebec City, Canada now appears on the company’s homepage.

‏Bodfish is a town of 1,956 people located 32 miles east-northeast of Bakersfield. It sits in the Lake Isabella basin not far from the mountain bike destination of Kernville at the southern end of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry that landed him at his current gig with Santa Cruz bicycles. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.

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  • tomek says:

    I have tools of his making, they always worked great. About “NUT JOB” comment. All of us to some extent are nut jobs, but this one brought some good to this world. (Any time I used his tools they always worked as intended) What did you bring to this world A drummer from the garden of turbulence? Only unpleasant comment.

  • Richard Lykin says:

    I have Morningstar Ti magura brake boosters on my trusty Cannondale Beast of the East… pure metal art. Think I’ll take it a soulful ride tomorrow.

  • Tyrebyter says:

    Correspondence with Paul in search of some tool was always fun. He was quite the character and will be missed.

  • Mathieu Lapointe says:

    Its a really saddening news. I bought tools from him a year ago and the short exchange of emails we had prior gave me a very good impression of him. Seeing that I’m from Quebec, he even used the few french words that he knew!

    Maybe he was challenged by mental illness If that’s really the case, it’s just so sad he did not benefit the help he could have needed.

    He will be missed.

  • Chuck says:

    For christ sake his site is already down. This one sounds strange. If he lived alone… I suspect FOUL PLAY !!!

  • PinkFloydLandis says:

    Booby-trapping your own home does seem like an odd hobby. Like something the John Malkovich character would do in Red.

    Maybe we can get the Angry Singlespeeder to take up this hobby. Its certainly contrarian enough for him.

  • John says:

    I knew Paul very well and I spoke with him on the phone usually once a week, but I haven’t personally seen him in over a year. He definitely had some problems. For a about the last 8 years Paul has believed that a guy, who did exist, but wasn’t really doing what Paul accused him of, was breaking into his house and poisoning his food. When ever Paul got sick, he would blame it on this guy. I was unaware the the bombs, but apparently he was setting them up to stop this guy from entering his house. He never had any intentions of hurting anyone that he believed wasn’t out to hurt him. Paul and I discussed bicycle technology and solutions to bicycle problems. He helped me on many occasions. Sadly he was a very paranoid person. I tried on many occasions to try to convince him of options he had to solve the problem, but he wouldn’t listen. He told me he had contacted the local police and even the DA on several occasions to try to get help in keeping this guy away from his house, but I’m sure they eventually wrote him off as being crazy. It’s really sad to see him go. Despite his problems, he was a great mechanic and problem solver. He was a good friend. So long Paul!

    • Jim says:

      Maybe the mystery guy finally succeeded in poisoning his food. It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

    • Greg says:

      Unfortunately Bi-Polar and mild forms of Schizophrenia will cause these types of behaviors. Had to go through it with my brother, his delusion was that some invented guy was breaking into his house to sexually abuse him. He kept having the locks changed and refused to go outside. It took a lot of therapy and drug regimens to get him somewhat normal. You can only help if they are willing to admit to the problem, otherwise you may as well talk to a wall.

  • Mike T. says:

    OMG, what a shock. Paul and I have exchanged regular e-mails for years. I knew he was paranoid and he’s told me a few times of the guy he suspected was trying to kill him. But I had no idea he’d booby-trapped his home.
    What a heart of gold he had though. He’s sent me a few of his tools to test over the years as we we both tool tinkerers. He’d send all the postage stamps that he received from around the world to my wife who collects stamps. Because of his selfless generosity I once mailed him a brand-new set of disc brakes that I had lying around. He’d mentioned that he needed new brakes so I thought I’d repay his generosity. You’d think I’d sent him the crown jewels. I’m going to really miss his regular funny e-mail banter and I regret never having met with him in person and ridden with him.
    RIP Pablo. You were very special. From your ol’ buddy (as he called me) “Mighty Mikeee”.

  • Vader says:

    I’ve always sought him out at Keysville and looked forward to seeing him again in the spring. RIP Paul.

  • Paul is authentic. He is someone I always looked forward to seeing at the Kernville Fat Tire Festival. He would drive in, cheerful, in his Volvo Station wagon with a roof rack with extra long load bars from which he hung his bicycles over the side. Always thought that was a great idea which exemplified his practical approach to engineering challenges.

    Paul, thanks for just being yourself.

  • Shaun says:

    Paul Morningstar had a heart of gold.I will miss him…

  • Cheri Roe says:

    I’ve known Paul for 40 years. He was always a good, kind man. I tried to get him to move away from Bodfish but… We saw him late last summer and he looked well. I’m lucky to have known him. I’m sorry to have lost him. He was a good friend.

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