Cops: Santa Slayer Planned To Flee Country

By: CBS/AP
By: CBS/AP

(CBS/AP) Law enforcement officials in Southern California say the gunman who killed nine people in a Christmas Eve bloodbath at a his ex-in-laws' Covina home intended to flee to Canada but was severely burned before he killed himself.

Police said Friday that 45-year-old Bruce Jeffrey Pardo brought four handguns with him and emptied them. He then used a homemade device to spray racing fuel around the home and the vapor was ignited by a pilot light or candle. He suffered third-degree burns on both arms when it exploded.

Authorities say Pardo's Santa suit actually melted onto his body before he fled.

After Pardo shot himself to death at his brother's home, authorities found $17,000 on his body a plane ticket for a flight from Los Angeles to Canada.

Authorities confirmed that nine bodies were recovered from the gutted home and coroner's operations at the scene have ended.

The victims are believed to have ranged in age from 17 to 80, but coroner's Chief Ed Winter says all the bodies remain unidentified because they were charred to the point they were not recognizable. Pardo's ex-wife and former in-laws are believed to be among the dead. Winter says it is not known whether the victims died from gunshots or fire.

Pardo arrived at the house of his former in-laws, James and Alicia Ortega, during their annual Christmas party on Christmas Eve, The CBS Evening News reported Friday.

The bloodbath began about 11:30 p.m. when an 8-year-old girl attending the party answered a knock at the door. A man dressed as Santa and carrying what appeared to a present pulled out a handgun and shot her in the face, then began shooting indiscriminately as partygoers tried to flee.

The gift-wrapped box Pardo was carrying actually contained a pressurized homemade device he used to spray a liquid that quickly sent the house up in flames. Police said Pardo had recently worked in the aerospace industry.

Pardo then drove to his brother's house, where he shot himself. Police found explosives in his rental car there. The car blew up while they were trying to defuse the bomb, but no one was injured, Evening News reported.

"He intended to commit this crime and then flee the country," Covina Police Chief Kim Raney said. "He didn’t anticipate injuring himself to the point where, obviously, he took his own life."

Pardo had also recently lost his job at military defense supplier ITT, Evening News reported.

He had volunteered, as he did every year, to be an usher at his church's Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, Evening News reported.

Pardo reached a Dec. 18 settlement with his ex-wife. His lawyer and a fellow church usher were among those who said they had never seen anything to indicate he was capable of such a brutal crime.

Pardo's attorney, Stanley Silver, said his client seemed cheerful when he left a message two days before the shooting and was trying to pay $10,000 to finalize the divorce proceedings.

"All of my dealings with him were always pleasant and cheerful," Silver said. "I'd never encountered him when he was ... angry or unpleasant at all."

The body of his ninth victim was found Friday morning when investigators resumed searching what was left of the two-story home on a cul-de-sac in Covina, 25 miles east of Los Angeles.

Pardo, 45, had no criminal record and no history of violence, according to police, but he was angry following last week's settlement of his divorce after a short marriage.

A court summary of the divorce case shows that Sylvia Pardo filed for a dissolution of marriage on March 24, 2008. The summary indicates she and Bruce Pardo reached a settlement on Dec. 18 and were separated after about two years of marriage.

Court documents show Sylvia Pardo got the couple's dog, the wedding ring and $10,000 in the settlement agreement, while he got the house. In June, the court ordered Bruce Pardo 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.

Two people wounded in the attack are expected to recover: the 8-year-old who was shot and a 16-year-old girl shot in the back. A 20-year-old woman broke her ankle when jumping from a second-story window and was recovering.

© MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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