Concern grows for young survivors of Covina shooting victims


Surviving family members Sunday were grappling with how to best care for the victims’ children after a Christmas Eve slaying in Covina that left nine people dead.

At least 13 young people were orphaned after the shooting and two others lost one parent, according to a family attorney.

“We have to help them,” said Jose Castillo, a relative who came to the Covina home Sunday to pay his respects.


The shooting occurred at the Knollcrest Drive home of Joseph and Alicia Ortega, who headed a large, close-knit family.

They were among those who police believe perished in the shootings but who have not been officially identified by the coroner’s office.

Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, the ex-husband of one of the Ortegas’ daughters, came to the annual family party dressed as Santa Claus and armed with four semiautomatic weapons and an incendiary device.

Pardo left after shooting family members and setting the house on fire.

Sixteen others survived by hiding under furniture, jumping out second-story windows and off the roof, and scrambling across yards.

Pardo later killed himself.

Castillo, the relative who visited Sunday, and his wife, Rocio, knew the Ortega family well and would often visit to swim or share meals of tamales and bistec.

“We would always eat together, typical Mexican food,” Rocio Castillo said as she stood outside the remains of the two-story Covina house.

Jose Castillo’s brother was Sylvia Pardo’s first husband. She was one of the Ortega children who died in the rampage.


He was the father of two of her three children. He was killed in a car crash in Arizona about 20 years ago.

The Castillos remained close with Sylvia and their niece and nephew, Selina and Sal Castillo, who escaped the mayhem on Christmas Eve.

Their former stepfather, Pardo, had just finalized his divorce from Sylvia about a week before the shootings.

“They were really very, very special people,” Jose Castillo said of the Ortega family in a later telephone follow-up interview.

“When I come with these people, everybody talks like friends -- more than friends, it’s something that I still can’t absorb, what happened to these people. It’s terrible,” he said.

The Castillos wondered how best to care for Selina and Sal, who are now without parents, and said they and other family members were trying to work out who would help support them and where they would stay.


After Wednesday night’s tragedy, many people involved focused on the surviving children and community.

“There is a feeling of total helplessness. . . . It has emotionally affected a lot of people in Covina,” said Mayor Pro Tem Walt Allen III, a retired 32-year police officer who was a top official with the California Department of Corrections and was a state narcotics agent and SWAT officer.

“Mine, the mayor’s and chief’s immediate concern was all the kids. We want to ensure their stability. Whenever you have an incident as horrific as this, the first thought is the kids left behind,” Allen said.

He said mental health professionals were being brought in to help not only the family but also neighbors and community members.

“Covina is hometown America. We’re like a Midwest town. We’re a child- and family-oriented community. It chills me what occurred,” Allen said. “This is devastating and the most horrific crime in the history of Covina.”

Pardo’s mother, Nancy Windsor, 72, said over the weekend that she had spoken with Sal Castillo on the phone and wanted to establish a fund for him and the rest of her former daughter-in-law’s family.


“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,” she said.

Jack Bodger, president of John Bodger and Sons seed company,where Sylvia Pardo worked in El Monte, said the company was also in the process of setting up a beneficial trust for her three children.

“She’s been with us about five years at the company, and she was a really good employee. She was a very kind person, and always considerate of others and had just a very good work ethic,” Bodger said in a telephone interview Sunday.

Scott Nord, an attorney for the family, said relatives “are going to need financial help . . . because this is going to be a massive, massive funeral cost.”

He said family members had begun setting up a way for people to donate.

Police also continued their investigation over the weekend and found another of Pardo’s vehicles in Glendale.


The gray 1999 Toyota RAV4 was found late Saturday on Glenoaks Boulevard after local residents noticed it matched the description released by authorities.

Covina Police Lt. Pat Buchanan said investigators were concerned the vehicle rented by Pardo from a Pasadena agency last week could have been booby-trapped like another rental car that blew up Thursday as sheriff’s bomb experts were examining it.

Police found no evidence of explosives or a triggering device in the RAV4 but recovered a canister of gasoline, water bottles, camping supplies, wrapped Christmas presents, two computers and a map of Mexico.

Allen said it appeared that Pardo “had been planning this a long time.”

“This didn’t occur overnight,” Allen said. “With domestic violence incidents, you just don’t see them coming until it’s too late.”

Covina officials will hold a community meeting at 7 p.m. tonight in the auditorium of Royal Oak School at 303 S. Glendora Ave.



Times staff writers Hector Becerra and Tami Abdollah contributed to this report.

Donations for the Ortega family can be sent in their name, care of Scott Nord, to 500 North Brand Boulevard, Suite 550, Glendale, CA 91203.