Nancy Windsor broke into violent sobs and tried to speak through them as she described her struggle to cope with her son Bruce Jeffrey Pardo's Christmas Eve massacre, in which he killed his ex-wife and eight members of her close-knit family.
"I have to be honest with you, I'm having trouble holding myself together," Windsor said today in a brief telephone interview with The Times from the hotel where she is staying.
But Windsor, 72, said she had talked with her former daughter-in-law Sylvia Pardo's son Sal, who reassured her that the family had no animosity toward her.
"I will say this to you," Windsor said. "It would have been so easy for that family to hate me. And Sal was just so wonderful. He said, 'We love you, and you're family.' I love them so much. And it's very hard this has happened."
Windsor has been living out of a suitcase since last month when her home at Oakridge Mobile Home Park was destroyed in the Sylmar fire.
Pardo, dressed in a Santa suit, appeared at the door of his ex-wife's parents' annual holiday party in Covina. When an 8-year-old girl answered the door, he shot her and began to fire at the revelers with a semiautomatic handgun. He then set the home on fire with a device that spewed fuel. Badly burned, Pardo later killed himself.
The victims have not been officially identified, but a relative said the dead included Pardo's ex-wife, her parents, two of her brothers and their wives, a nephew and a sister.
She said she wanted to set up a fund for her former daughter-in-law's family. Sylvia Pardo, who divorced Bruce Pardo in February, had three children from a former marriage.
"Anything that our family realized from Bruce's vehicle, from the money on him, whenever that's released, everything is going to my grandchildren. I want it for my grandchildren," Windsor said. "Everybody says the grandchildren are the best. In this case, they are the best."
Windsor said she had seen a son and his daughter, who were helping her to get through it.
"I'm just about falling apart, and I need a few days to get myself together, and then I'll be OK," Windsor said. "I need to do this because I have my son and his wife, and I need them, and they need me, and it's OK. I'm going to be strong."