A look at the nine Christmas Eve shooting victims
More than 1,500 mourners turned out Friday for the funeral of nine family members killed during a shooting rampage on Christmas Eve.
Cardinal Roger Mahony and Covina Police Chief Kim Raney were among those who attended the 10 a.m. Mass at Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church in San Dimas. A private funeral service followed at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Covina.
Apparently enraged over his recent divorce, Bruce Pardo arrived at the home of his former in-laws in Covina dressed as Santa Claus and armed with four semiautomatic weapons and an incendiary device, police said. When he left, nine people were dead and the house was engulfed in flames.
The Los Angeles County coroner identified the victims as Pardo’s ex-wife, Sylvia Pardo, 43; her parents, Joseph Ortega, 80, and his wife, Alicia, 70; her two brothers, James Ortega, 52, and Charles Ortega, 50, and their wives, Teresa, 51, and Cheri, 45; Sylvia Pardo’s sister, Alicia Ortiz, 46, and her son, Michael Ortiz, 17.
Rosa Ordaz, 44, a friend of the Ortega family, was among those who attended the morning Mass.
“It seemed like they knew how precious time was and the most important thing to them was family and friends,” Ordaz said. “We’re all confident that the beauty of love will continue.”
Of Sylvia Pardo’s immediate family, only her sister Leticia Yuzefpolsky survived the Covina shootings, police and family friends said.
Pardo fled the scene and later shot himself to death outside his brother’s house in Sylmar.
The following is a list of the nine family members killed on Dec. 24:
Sylvia Pardo, 43
Roxanne Jauregui met Sylvia Pardo when the two registered for high school at Sacred Heart of Mary in Montebello almost three decades ago.
Looking for friendly faces among the new crowd, the two young women from Monterey Park became fast friends because they were from the same neighborhood. Jauregui’s father took them to school in the morning; Pardo’s mother picked them up in the afternoon.
“We would do everything -- dances, school functions, house parties,” Jauregui said.
Pardo’s family went camping in Kings Canyon National Park every year, and Jauregui often tagged along. The two remained close over the years, even when Pardo attended a different high school after her family moved to Covina during her sophomore year.
“It was tough on her because we were her first friends,” Jauregui said.
Pardo was always interested in business and took a job as a secretary out of high school.
“We would laugh at her shorthand,” Jauregui said. “She enjoyed her work.”
Family members said Pardo was a hard worker yet carried a cheerful demeanor. But her life was not without hardship, they said.
About 20 years ago, the father of her two oldest children was killed in a car crash in Arizona. She was a widow for many years until she married George Orza, whom she apparently met through work. The couple had a daughter, now 6.
Orza and Pardo later divorced. He now lives in Oklahoma.
Sylvia met Bruce Pardo about four years ago. At first, the marriage seemed ideal: He lived alone in a sparsely furnished house, and she had three children and plenty of furniture. The marriage began disintegrating when Sylvia Pardo discovered that Bruce Pardo had abandoned a brain-damaged son years ago but continued to claim him as a tax write-off.
One week before Bruce Pardo’s murderous rampage, the couple appeared before a judge to finalize a divorce agreement. He would keep the house. She would get a $10,000 payment and the family dog.
Joseph Ortega, 80
Joseph Ortega was the first of his parents’ five children to be born in the United States. Santiago Ortega and Dolores Sandoval had emigrated in the 1920s from the city of Torreon in northern Mexico. Their oldest son, Alfonso, would become a U.S. citizen and fight in World War II. Santiago and Dolores moved back to Mexico about 10 years later, and Joseph Ortega came to see his older brother as a kind of second father, said Irma Chapa Ortega, a niece in Mexico.
When Alfonso Ortega died two years ago at the age of 97, “it affected my uncle very deeply,” she said.
Growing up, Joseph Ortega disliked the name Joseph. A family member called him “Jimmy” because he could not pronounce his real name, and Ortega took that name as his own. He would meet his future wife, Alicia, during a visit to see his parents in Torreon in 1955. They moved to L.A. almost immediately.
The couple named their first child James. They had five children, and with his wife’s help, Ortega started an industrial paint company in Baldwin Park. The couple eventually bought a two-story home with a pool in the suburb of Covina that became a center of family life.
“Papa Joe,” as he was called, loved to collect baseball hats and tried to wear a new one every day, said Linda Perez, a family friend who would give him her son’s old Little League hats.
“It didn’t matter what kind it was, he’d wear it and be beaming for the rest of the day,” she said.
He was a fan of popular Mexican singers Javier Solis and Vicente Fernandez, as well as Frank Sinatra and Glen Miller. He liked to play Texas Hold ‘Em, and he owned a racehorse that would compete at Santa Anita Race Track. The patriarch and his large brood of children, grandchildren and other family members also liked to take trips to Las Vegas or go camping in Sequoia National Park.
He was devoted to his 84-year-old sister Dolores Ortega, who still lived in Torreon. Whenever he left after one of his regular visits, he would kiss her and make the same special request he always made of her children: “Take care of my sister.”
Alicia Ortega, 70
Once a month, Alicia Ortega would pick up the phone and call her two sisters in Torreon, Mexico. “Hola, hola, how are you?” she would say, before launching into marathon conversations with her siblings.
Ortega cultivated strong ties to her ancestral home. She and her husband of 53 years, Joseph, whose family also had deep roots in Torreon, would visit the Mexican town at least twice a year. Alicia was born in Torreon in 1938, the youngest daughter of Luis Sotomayor Rios and Consuelo Diaz de Sotomayor.
Joseph Ortega was 27 when he first spotted Alicia, then 17, standing in front of her parents’ home. “I’m going to marry her,” he said, Alicia’s sister, Consuelo “Chelito” de Dorantes, told El Siglo de Torreon newspaper.
De Dorantes described the encounter as “love at first sight.”
Joseph returned to woo the pretty, well-dressed girl, and after getting Alicia’s parents’ consent, he took her to the theater and to dinner. Not long after, the couple married and moved to Los Angeles, where they had five children: James, Charles, Alicia, Sylvia and Leticia. The couple started a paint company, Industrial Powder Coating Inc.
Like her husband, Alicia was a fan of Santos, the Mexican league soccer team from her hometown. Her husband liked to play blackjack and poker during trips to Las Vegas, but Alicia Ortega spent most of her time playing quarter video poker.
Neighbors said Alicia also doted on her two dogs, a mutt and an Alaskan husky.
Mitzie Avery, who lived next door to Charles and Cheri Ortega in West Covina, said that she and her family had joined the Ortega family for previous Christmas Eve celebrations.
“When you walked into a room, every one of the Ortega kids would get up and give you a kiss and a hug,” Avery said. “They were the most respectful family I’d ever known. It all started with Joe and Alice.”
James Ortega, 52
James Ortega was Joseph and Alicia’s eldest child and he worked for years alongside his father at the family’s paint shop on Virginia Avenue in Baldwin Park.
In the early 1980s he opened his own shop about a mile away on Dalewood Street but often had lunch with his brother and father, friends said.
Llamas Sotomayor, a family member living in Mexico, said James Ortega was more serious than his brother, Charles, and more of a homebody, who along with his wife, Teresa, stuck close to his immediate family. The couple had three children, friends said.
Joe Diaz, 47, said he’d known the Ortega family since the 1960s, and the families were once neighbors in Monterey Park. He said what he remembered best about James Ortega was his competitive spirit.
Diaz said he and his brother and Ortega and his brother, Charles, used to play baseball, football and tennis when they were kids. He recalled once competing against Ortega in a football game.
“I rushed in on him, I was hanging on to his waist for like a good minute,” Diaz said. “Everyone was laughing. He just wouldn’t go down.”
His best memory of the Ortega family, Diaz said, was simply that “I knew they loved me.”
Teresa Ortega, 51
Teresa Ortega married James Ortega and lived in Upland in a two-story home on Lemon Tree Circle. Friends and family members declined to talk about Ortega, except to say that she was a caring mother of three adult children.
Charles Ortega, 50
During breaks from his job at the family’s paint company, Charles Ortega would sometimes challenge his co-workers to a game of basketball at an old hoop in the back of the store.
He was never particularly good, but that didn’t stop him, friends said.
“He was very physical for a basketball player, but he couldn’t shoot if you left him open,” said family friend Fred Duran, 47. Charles, a Dodgers fan, liked baseball much more than basketball, but that didn’t mean he “wasn’t going to try,” Duran said.
Duran said Charles was always full of energy and recalled how he reacted when he saw one of his family’s horses collapse during a race at Santa Anita.
“Charlie hopped the rail and tried to save the horse,” Duran said. “He was like knee-deep in dirt. Charlie was definitely a passionate type of guy.”
Duran’s father opened a patio furniture repair shop in the back of Joseph Ortega’s paint company, and he worked there alongside Charles Ortega until his father moved his business to Rifle, Colo.
“It started out with Papa Joe and he passed it down to Charles,” Duran said of the paint shop. Charles Ortega still worked at the company but recently passed the store down to his own son, Duran said.
Charles Ortega met his wife, Cheri, when she was in high school, and the two quickly became sweethearts, friends said. They later married and had five children.
Their sons played baseball, Duran said, and the entire Ortega family would attend their games.
One of the things that always surprised him, Duran said, was that Charles Ortega would eat lunch almost every day with family.
“You usually don’t spend that much time with your dad and brother,” Duran said. “But these guys were together every day.”
Cheri Ortega, 45
Teachers at Grovecenter Elementary would sometimes raise an eyebrow when Cheri Ortega showed up early on Fridays. They knew the family was going on a trip together and that usually meant her children would miss Monday as well.
“They would take all the kids out of school a little early on Friday, and they’d go to the desert and they’d go dirt-bike riding and ATV riding,” said Charlene Carbajal, 45, a family friend who went to high school with Ortega.
“They used to kind of get a little upset with her for doing that,” said Carbajal, a school aide.
“I’m really glad she had that time with her kids because it’s really important,” she said. “They would do everything together; everywhere they went the whole family went.”
Carbajal went to high school with Ortega in La Puente, and in recent years they had kept in close contact.
Ortega met her future husband, Charles Ortega, while in high school when she came to help out at the paint shop owned by his father. They went to Cheri Ortega’s senior prom at Bassett High School in 1981 and later married, Carbajal said.
Cheri Ortega would sometimes help out at her husband’s paint shop, but she lived for her five children and a tight-knit family life, friends said. Sometimes she would show up at school just to bring her youngest son, 11, lunch and to make sure he was well.
“Usually in fifth grade you wouldn’t see little boys saying ‘I love you mom’ and giving them a kiss at the lunch tables in front of everyone, but they had that special bond that he was able to do that,” Carbajal said.
Alicia Ortiz, 46
Alicia Ortiz had three children who spoke perfect Spanish.
“She was very strict,” said family member Llamas Sotomayor. “They wrote it and read it very well. She educated them very well. She wasn’t a scolder, but she was strict about their study. She wanted them all to be very good.”
Ortiz, who friends said was recently divorced, had lived with her children in Ontario, two blocks away from the high school where her son, Michael Ortiz, was enrolled and played baseball.
Matthew Horner, 25, said Alicia was his godmother and worked at a school.
“She was just a wonderful woman, a caring, good person,” he said. “She was someone I could always talk to whenever I had my own problems.”
Michael Ortiz, 17
Michael Ortiz’s baseball team was down a few runs in an All-Star game and the rest of the bench looked glum.
“Don’t sit down!” Ortiz told his teammates, trying to fire them up. “Get off your butts and play!”
“He kept talking and got the team up, and we ended up winning the game,” remembered Julio Martinez, who said he grew up playing Little League and other youth leagues with Ortiz and was at that game.
“Always looks at the bright side,” Martinez said of his friend’s philosophy about life.
A senior at Ontario High School, Ortiz was poised to be the team’s shortstop this season and was one of the Jaguars’ best pitchers with a mean changeup, said the school’s varsity baseball coach Chris Romero.
Ortiz made varsity his junior year and wore No.19, Romero said. When Ortiz tried out for the team as a freshman, Romero said he remembered that Ortiz was small but had “good hands” and swung the bat well.
He was also a good student, Romero said, and thought about going to Cal State Fullerton.
“He’s one of those kids that you never worried about,” Romero said, adding that Ortiz was in advanced math classes. “I would always glance at his grades and they were real good.”
In his free time, friends said, Ortiz could be found hanging out with his girlfriend, playing sports and video games, or mixing his own hip-hop beats. But Ortiz’s uncle, Benny Medina of Diamond Bar, said his nephew was already thinking about his future.
“He was going to make it,” said Medina, 58. “He was going to be somebody.”