December 29, 2008
COVINA - Police say they believe the man in the Santa costume who allegedly killed nine people at a Christmas Eve party may have intended to kill more people, including his own mother.
Lt. Pat Buchanan said Bruce Pardo had had a falling out with his mother and felt she was siding with his ex-wife, Sylvia, in their bitter divorce proceeding.
Buchanan said Pardo found out his mother was invited to Sylvia's family's Christmas Eve party in Covina and intended to kill her along with others gathered there.
His mother, however, did not attend the party because she had the flu.
Detectives also believe that Pardo planned to kill his wife's divorce attorney, Scott J. Nord, and family.
Police found a car belonging to Pardo parked outside the attorney's home in Glendale, Buchanan said.
No explosives were found, but investigators did find a canister of gasoline, water bottles, wrapped Christmas presents, two computers and a map of Mexico, police said.
Concern Grows For Young Survivors of Christmas Massacre
At least 13 young people were orphaned after the shooting, and two others lost one parent, according to a family attorney.
Donations can be sent to the Ortega Family Fund, C/O Law Offices of Scott J. Nord, 500 N. Brand Blvd., Suite 550, Glendale, CA, 91203.
The family requests that any non-monetary donations be made to a charity of choice in the name of the family.
Coroner's investigators were using dental records Monday to officially identify the nine members of the Ortega family killed when 45-year-old Bruce Jeffrey Pardo opened fire on a Christmas party at his ex-in-laws' home.
The names of the nine victims found in the rubble of the home Pardo torched after his shooting rampage were released Saturday.
Among them is Sylvia Pardo, the 43-year-old ex-wife of the shooter, Bruce Pardo, 45.
Covina Police Lt. Pat Buchanan says the others are the woman's parents: 80-year-old Joseph Ortega and 70-year-old Alicia Ortega; her 46-year-old sister, Alicia Ortiz; and her sister's 17-year-old son, Michael Ortiz.
Also unaccounted for are Sylvia Pardo's brother, Charles Ortega, 50, and his wife, Cheri, 45; another brother, James, 52, and his wife, Teresa, 51.
Police were still listing the victims as missing, however, because coroner's officials say the nine bodies were too badly charred for immediate identification.
Officials have also yet to determine whether the victims died of gunshot wounds or in the explosion.
Police Saturday located the missing second vehicle rented by Pardo. It was found in the 2300 block of Glen Oaks Boulevard in Glendale.
The bomb squad was called to the scene because police fear that Pardo may have booby-trapped the missing grey 1999 Toyota Rav4 or left it filled with ammunition or explosives.
The first car rented in Pardo's name blew up on Thursday as bomb experts were investigating it.
The bomb squad did not find any explosives in the second vehicle, but investigators did find a canister of gasoline, water bottles, wrapped Christmas presents, two computers and a map of Mexico, police said.
Armed with four guns, police say Pardo apparently shot some of his nine victims execution-style in a plot to destroy his ex-wife's family after a costly divorce that was finalized last week.
After the shooting, Pardo had planned to board a plane destined for Moline, Ill., so he could visit a friend across the state border in Iowa, Covina police Lt. Pat Buchanan said.
An earlier report by Los Angeles County coroner's officials that Pardo was bound for Canada was incorrect, Buchanan said.
Police said they found $17,000 in cash on Pardo's body. Officials said his plans were derailed because he was severely burned when he set the house on fire. He was found with 3rd degree burns to his arms and legs with the Santa suit burned into his skin, according to Police Chief Kim Raney.
Pardo, who is believed to have recently lost his job, knocked on the front door of a home owned by the parents of his ex-wife in Covina around 11:30 Wednesday night, said Police Chief Kim Raney.
An 8-year-old girl ran to the door to answer Pardo's knock, police said. He shot her in the face, stepped into the house and began to fire indiscriminately with a semiautomatic handgun, then apparently targeted relatives of his ex-wife as other guests fled.
"There's some information that he stood over them and shot them execution-style," Raney said.
Pardo was carrying what appeared to be a large present but was what police described as a home-made pressurized device used to spray a mix of carbon dioxide or oxygen with high-octane racing fuel.
Fleeing guests saw him spraying the fuel inside the house when the vapor was ignited, possibly by a pilot light or a candle, and exploded.
About 80 firefighters battled the blaze, which destroyed the house. They battled flames that soared 40 to 50 feet high for an hour and a half before extinguishing the fire, according to Capt. Mike Brown.
When the flames were extinguished early Thursday, investigators found three charred bodies in the home's living room area.
Later that day, they found five more bodies. Authorities called off the search for more victims after finding a ninth body Friday.
In addition to the 8-year-old girl who was shot, a 16-year-old girl was shot in the back.
Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center spokeswoman Adelaida De La Cerda said the 8-year-old girl who was shot in the face was released from the hospital Friday.
Her mother had been at the hospital and was "extremely traumatized," De La Cerda said. Her cousin, a 16-year-old girl brought in for observation, had superficial injuries and was released Thursday. The teenager's mother was Bruce Pardo's ex-wife, De La Cerda said.
About 25 people were at the party. Partygoers fled the house on Knollcrest Drive in panic, running to neighbors' homes and frantically calling police.
A 20-year-old woman broke her ankle when she escaped by jumping from a second-story window.
Officials have released a 911 call filled with frantic appeals for help.
"He's still shooting out there," a woman sobs, describing how her ex-brother-in-law was armed and dressed in a Santa suit.
"He's shooting my whole family!
My mom's house is on fire!"
After the attack, Pardo drove to his brother's house in Sylmar --about 25 miles away from the carnage. Shortly before 3:30 a.m., Pardo's brother summoned Los Angeles police to his home.
Officers arrived to find Pardo dead from a single gunshot to the head, police officials said. They found two handguns there, and two more in the wreckage of his former in-laws' house.
By 9 a.m. Thursday, a pair of Covina detectives had arrived at house in Montrose that Pardo owned and lived in, cordoning it off with tape. The detectives sat in their car awaiting a judge to sign a search warrant for the house.
At 3 p.m., members of the Los Angeles County sheriff's bomb squad and other detectives came to the house.
Their search turned up racing fuel, five empty boxes for high-powered semi-automatic handguns and two high-powered shot guns.
A car rented in Pardo's name was left in front of his brother's house in Sylmar loaded with 300 rounds of ammunition and a pipe bomb.
Before the suicide, Pardo used remnants of the Santa suit to rig the car to explode.
When the suit was lifted, it "would pull a trip wire or a switch, igniting a flare inside the car that would then ignite black powder and he had several hundred rounds of handgun ammunition inside the car," said Raney.
All of that exploded when bomb squad technicians tried to disarm the device Thursday, but no one was injured.
Court records show Pardo's ex-wife Sylvia Pardo, 43, filed for a dissolution of marriage on March 24, 2008, and they were legally separated after about two years of marriage.
The two reached a settlement on Dec. 18.
Bruce Pardo owed her $10,000 as part of the settlement, according to court documents that detailed a bitter split. He also lost a dog and did not get back a valuable wedding ring.
"No counseling or delay could help restore this marriage," the settlement stated. "There are irreconcilable differences which have led to the complete breakdown of the marriage."
Authorities now believe that fighting over a child from a previous relationship that Pardo abandoned, but continued to claim on tax returns, may have triggered his divorce from his wife and subsequent killing spree.
Family members said that the boy, who is about 9, nearly drowned when he was a year old and was left physically handicapped.
Pardo had apparently claimed the boy as a dependent on his tax returns for seven years, even though he did not support the child financially.
A family source said Pardo's ex-wife found out about the child and demanded Pardo stop claiming him as a dependent, creating a rift between the two that contributed to their break-up last January.
Bruce Pardo had been employed at ITT Electronic Systems, Radar Systems, in Van Nuys from February 2005 to July 2008, according to court documents.
He worked as an engineer at Northrop Grumman for five months in 2005, said spokesman Tom Henson, who did not know if Pardo was a regular employee or contractor there.
Pardo's resume also indicates that he worked at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 1985 to 1994 and had also held positions at medical centers and software manufacturers.
Bruce Pardo wrote in a legal declaration that he was laid off in July and had been denied state unemployment payments in August.
He said he was "desperately seeking" work with many companies.
"I was not given a severance package from my last employer at termination and I am not receiving any other income. I am desperately seeking work and have since applied to many companies, resulting in several job interviews," he wrote. "I ask for support just until I gain employment."
Bruce Pardo complained in a court declaration that Sylvia Pardo was living with her parents, not paying rent, and had spent lavishly on a luxury car, gambling trips to Las Vegas, meals at fine restaurants, massages and golf lessons.
Documents from the divorce show Bruce Pardo got their house, which was valued at more than a half-million dollars, but the couple only had $106,000 in equity in it.
The mortgage was $2,700 a month, a declaration said.
He complained in a filing that he had monthly expenses of $8,900 and ran a monthly deficit of $2,678.
In June, the court ordered him to pay $1,785 a month in spousal support and put him on a payment plan of $450 a month for $3,570 that was unpaid.
His attorney, Stanley Silver, told The Associated Press his client had trouble making the support payments after he lost his job in July, but spousal support was waived in the settlement last week.
Bruce Pardo was trying to pay $10,000 to finalize the divorce proceedings, Silver said, and he never showed any anger or instability.
"All of my dealings with him were always pleasant and cheerful," said Silver, who heard from him last on Tuesday.
Friends and neighbors described Bruce Pardo as a cheerful man who seemed upbeat and doted on a big, brown Akita he owned with his former wife.
He stood more than 6 feet tall and was always gentle and kind, said Jan Detanna, head usher at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Montrose, where Pardo volunteered.
Bong Garcia, Pardo's next door neighbor, said he last saw Pardo between 9 and 10 p.m. and exchanged brief greetings.
Pardo told him he was on his way to a Christmas party and walked down the street dressed in regular clothes, Garcia said.
At his home in Montrose, Christmas lights decorated the roof and plastic nutcracker soldiers and striped candy canes were attached to a fence that edged a neatly trimmed lawn.
Santa Suit Killer Planned to Kill His Mother, Ex-Wife's Lawyer