Remembering the late CapRadio pillar Charles Starzynski on and off the air

The former program director died in a shooting last month


Charles Starzynski died Oct. 20, 2022 after suffering at least one gunshot wound in a shooting in East Sacramento, according to the Sacramento Police Department. Starzynski was one of the first hosts of CapRadio, according to a memo sent to staff. (Photo of CapRadio: Jacob Peterson. Photo of Charles Starzynski: courtesy of CapRadio. Graphic: created in Canva by Kamelia Varasteh)

Jacob Peterson, news staffer

Former Capital Public Radio Program Director Charles Starzynski died in a shooting during a robbery in East Sacramento on Oct. 20 according to the Sacramento Police Department.

Authorities arrived at the 3900 block of N Street around 12:30 p.m. in response to a report of a shooting, according to a press release from Sacramento police. The release states officers found the 70-year-old Starzynski suffering from at least one gunshot wound and pronounced him dead at the scene.

Police arrested Dean Brasser Jr., the man accused of shooting Starzynski, the day after the shooting, according to a press release.

“This is yet another example of vulnerable people in our community being tragically affected by gun violence,” Sacramento Police Chief Kathy Lester said. “The community is right to be outraged at this unacceptable behavior.” 

I just told him ‘I wanted to thank you; I wouldn’t be in radio if it wasn’t for you.’

— Steve Milne

“I think it’s only appropriate to start this week’s update by remembering a former colleague, Charles Starzynski, who was tragically killed in a shooting in East Sac last Thursday,” CapRadio General Manager Jun Reina said in a memo to staff.

According to Reina’s memo, there are still members of the staff who recalled Starzynki’s tenure from 1979-1998. One person to work with Starzynski over the years is Steve Milne, who hosts “Morning Edition,” for the station. 

Milne said he started at the station as a student intern in 1983 after transferring from American River College to Sacramento State. 

“It wasn’t known as CapRadio then, it was KXPR,” Milne said. “I thought it would be a good way because I was a journalism student, and I thought it would be a good way to get into news and radio.”

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Charles Starzynski (bottom left) in a staff photo for CapRadio in 1982. Starzynski started with Capital Public Radio as a host in 1979, when it was still known as KXPR. (Photo: courtesy Capital Public Radio)

Milne said while he didn’t work much with Strazynski right away, he did have the opportunity to meet him.

“He was a guy who I really looked up to because he was the program director, but he was also the newscaster in the morning– which is what I do now,” Milne said. “He was also a classical music host, so I was like ‘wow this guy does it all.’”

Starzynski moved from Missoula, Montana to Sacramento in 1979 to be one of KXPR’s first on-air hosts, according to the staff memo.Outside of his roles as a host and program director, Starzynski was an announcer, reporter, producer and fundraiser for the station.

Milne said Starzynski helped the station raise funds through fundrives on-air and by hosting games.

“Other non-profits would do this too, where they would hold bingo games and the profits would go to Capital improvement projects like building new studios,” Milne said. “In the early days of public radio — and here at Sacramento — he was an executive at the station; so he was a major player.”

Milne said that after his internship was over and he was hired by the station, Starzynski became his supervisor.

“Charles was always encouraging because I was a young upcoming journalist,” Milne said. “He was always willing to give me tips or to guide me and just encourage me along the way.”

Milne said he tried to emulate Starzynski’s style as a newscaster when he started out. He said listeners could depend on Starzynski to deliver the news in an impartial way.

“I just try to follow his example in terms of his professionalism,” Milne said. “He was a good writer, as well. In radio, the writing’s a little different than in print. You have to be more conversational. He would show me how to write more for radio.”

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The Capital Public Radio building by Sacramento State on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. “He was also a classical music host, so I was like ‘wow this guy does it all,’” CapRadio Morning Host Steve Milne said of Starzynski. (Jacob Peterson)

Milne said he hadn’t had much contact with Starzynski after Starzynski left the station in 1998. He said he remembered last seeing Starzynski at a Christmas party for station donors a few years before the pandemic. 

“That was the first time I had seen him in a long time, so it was nice to be able to catch up with him,” Milne said. “I just told him ‘I wanted to thank you; I wouldn’t be in radio if it wasn’t for you.’”

Milne said Starzynski wasn’t the type to take credit for something like that, and insisted Milne give credit to the reporter who oversaw his internship.

Milne said after Starzynski left the station, the former radio host moved to the grocery store business with his wife, Karson Elliott of Elliott’s Natural Foods. 

Milne said Starzynski’s professionalism left an impact on the people who worked with him.

“He was public radio in Sacramento, that’s why it’s such a big loss to a lot of people,” Milne said.