KTLA NewsDecember 26, 2008COVINA [California] -- Investigators said Friday that they have found another body in the rubble of a house burned down by a distraught man who dressed as Santa Claus and opened fire at a Christmas Eve party before taking his own life.
Coroner's Lt. Larry Dietz says the ninth body was found Friday morning in the gutted structure.Nine people are confirmed dead and two others were wounded, according to authorities. The names of the deceased have not been released, and identification will likely take days because the bodies were so badly burned in the blaze.Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, 45, who had recently been divorced and is believed to have 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.The Los Angeles County coroner confirmed that at least eight people at the party were killed.Pardo's ex-wife, 43-year-old Sylvia Ortega, and her parents, Joseph and Alicia Ortega, are considered among the dead, officials 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 some kind of flammable substance."We actually believe he was attempting to create an aerosol or some kind of fume that would ignite later," said Covina police Lt. Pat Buchanan. "We still don't know what set it off."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.The firefighters were initially kept at bay by police who feared that the gunman was still in the area.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 planned to return to the scene Friday to search for more victims.In addition to the 8-year-old girl who was shot, a 16-year-old girl was shot in the back. Both are expected to survive, though there is no word on their current condition.
About 25 people were at the party, according to radio reports.Party goers fled the house on Knollcrest Drive in panic, running to neighbors' homes and frantically calling police. A 20-year-old woman broke her ankle whenshe escaped by jumping from a second-story window.Then, shortly before 3:30 a.m., Pardo's brother summoned Los Angeles police to his Sylmar home -- about 25 miles away from the carnage.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. Thurday, a pair of Covina detectives had arrived at the tan stucco house in Montrose that Pardo owned and lived in, cordoning it off with tape.Candy cane decorations were affixed to the fence and a holiday wreath hung onthe front door. An SUV and a military-style Hummer were parked in the driveway.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. They brought out boxes of evidence and several metal cylinders filled with flammable gas.One detective, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to news media, said they had found evidence inside that Pardo had prepared for the attack.Meanwhile, 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. All of that exploded when bomb squad technicians detonated an incendiary device in the vehicle, but no one was injured.
Court records show that Pardo's wife of about two years divorced him last September. He had no criminal record, according to police, but had apparently become angry following last week's settlement of his divorce.Court documents show that his ex-wife got $10,000, the house, her wedding ring and the family dog in the settlement. Bruce Pardo's attorney said Pardo was still trying to pay the $10,000 as recently as Tuesday.Pardo had also fallen behind on spousal support payments after he lost his job in July, according to his attorney.He "was apparently going through a bad time in his marriage," Buchanan said.
Neighbors said that until earlier this year, Pardo lived in the house with his ex-wife and her three children. They were often seen walking their dog through the neighborhood.Pardo was, by many accounts, an unassuming, religious man, who tended to his garden and served regularly as an usher at evening Mass at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Montrose.
Bong Garcia, Pardo's next door neighbor, said he last saw Pardo between 9 and 10p.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.Pardo is thought to have worked in the aerospace industry as an engineer,according to police and acquaintances.
Push a man far enough and this is what happens and two years,well that how long the average marriage lasts these days.