By Christina Hoag
Friday, December 26, 2008
COVINA, Calif., Dec. 25 -- Stinging from an acrimonious divorce, a man plotting revenge against his ex-wife dressed up like Santa Claus, went to his former in-laws' Christmas Eve party and slaughtered at least eight people before setting the house ablaze and, hours later, killing himself, police said.
Bruce Pardo's ex-wife and her parents remained missing after the rampage, and it was feared their remains were among the ashes of the house. Pardo allegedly used a bizarre homemade device that sprayed flammable liquid before igniting the fire.
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 marriage that lasted barely a year.
"It was not an amicable divorce," police Lt. Pat Buchanan said Thursday.
The massacre began, police said, when an 8-year-old girl answered Pardo's knock at the door. Pardo, carrying what appeared to be a large present, pulled out a handgun and shot her in the face, then began shooting indiscriminately as about 25 partygoers tried to flee.
A 16-year-old girl was shot in the back, and a 20-year-old woman broke her ankle when she escaped by jumping from a second-story window. Those two, and the 8-year-old, remained hospitalized Thursday. All were expected to recover.
The gift-wrapped box Pardo was carrying contained a pressurized device that sprayed a liquid around the house, police said.
When the fire was extinguished early Thursday, officers found three charred bodies in the living-room area.
"They were met with a scene that was just indescribable," Police Chief Kim Raney said. Investigators found five more bodies amid the ashes later in the day.
None of the dead or missing have been identified.
After setting the fire, Pardo quickly got out of the Santa suit and drove off, witnesses told police. He went to his brother's home about 25 miles away in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles, police said, where he let himself inside.
Police found Pardo there, dead of a single gunshot to the head.