Lawsuit seeks $700,000 for 2007 farmstead incident

Farm Forum

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota woman has filed a civil lawsuit against a former Fargo man accused of breaking into her rural home more than six years ago during what he said was a journey to find abandoned farmsteads.

The federal complaint filed on Dec. 2 by Shirley Starke, 63, seeks $700,000 in damages from Patrick Zaun and several companies Zaun has been affiliated with since the July 2007 incident.

The suit claims the companies are harboring a fugitive because Zaun faces a misdemeanor charge. Zaun has an outstanding warrant for criminal mischief that was not issued until nearly a year after the incident.

Starke’s lawyer, John Gosbee, of Fort Yates, said Zaun is currently working in Japan. Court documents do not list a lawyer for Zaun. Attempts to reach him through family members in Fargo were unsuccessful.

Gosbee said he explored the possibility of legal action in 2007, but Zaun’s employer at the time, Motorola, would not cooperate in bringing him back to the U.S. The issue came up again in a recent discussion with Starke, the attorney said.

‘‘Basically she and I were talking about various things and this whole issue came up. I gave more thought to it and said, ‘Yeah, why don’t we sue them?’’’ Gosbee told The Associated Press.

Officials with Motorola did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The suit said Starke was on her computer in her living room on July 22, 2007, when the evening ‘‘was shattered by the sound of breaking wood.’’ Starke called 911 and then ran outside to get a license plate number, after which time Zaun drove off, the complaint said.

A Barnes County sheriff’s deputy said in a 2008 affidavit that he spoke on the phone with Zaun — who was at an airport in Illinois awaiting a flight to Japan. Zaun said he wanted to talk with Starke to apologize and pay for damages ‘‘but was fearful for the way she was acting because Starke kept shouting,’’ the affidavit said.

Gosbee said it doesn’t matter if Zaun thought the house near Valley City was empty. He said Zaun broke the law and the incident has caused Starke emotional distress.

‘‘If Zaun has ever explained his reasoning that apparent abandonment is an invitation for trespassers to kick in a door, Starke has never heard it,’’ the lawsuit states.