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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in central Washington: The man wanted for attacking a farm family was apprehended by a vigilant train conductor

A man apprehended on a Great Northern train, identified as Paul Staren, 40, made a “full confession” to shooting and killing August Bongiorni, 19, and shooting and wounding Bongiorni’s father, Joe Bongiorni, at the Bongiorni farm near Wilson Creek.  (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
A man apprehended on a Great Northern train, identified as Paul Staren, 40, made a “full confession” to shooting and killing August Bongiorni, 19, and shooting and wounding Bongiorni’s father, Joe Bongiorni, at the Bongiorni farm near Wilson Creek. (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

The “fiend” who attacked a farm family near Wilson Creek was apprehended near Irby, Washington, by a Great Northern train conductor after he heard someone “stamping around in the brush” and talking to himself. The conductor knew a manhunt was on, so he convinced the man to get into the caboose, where he and other rail men guarded him. The suspicious conductor then turned him over to authorities in Harrington.

There, the man identified as Paul Staren, 40, made a “full confession.” He claimed he had worked on the Joe Bongiorni farm for three weeks – three years earlier – and had been shorted 50 cents a day on wages. He had apparently brooded over this for three years, and returned to the farm with revenge on his mind.

“I only wanted to clean up on Joe,” Staren said. “I started to shoot right away.”

When asked why he also shot at Mrs. Bongiorni, he said, “I was just excited, I guess.”

When asked why he tried to drag 13-year-old Margaret Bongiorni out of the house, he said, “I wasn’t going to kidnap the girl. I just wanted to take her out and show her what I had done to her father.”

As it turned out, he had only wounded Joe Bongiorni, but he had killed August Bongiorni, 19. Staren claimed he didn’t even realize that he had killed August.

Police believed he might have been the same man who attacked a farm family near Olympia, two weeks earlier. Many of the details of the attack were similar. When Staren was asked the last time he was in Olympia, he replied, “I never was there.”

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