Killer Santa from Montrose
Neighbors and community members are continuing to deal with the aftermath of the horrific Christmas Eve murders of a family in Covina by Montrose resident Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, 45.
Reasons of how or what made this seemingly quiet man plan and execute the heinous act that resulted in the death of nine members of the Ortega family wove its way in and out of conversations throughout this holiday season.
Revelation into Pardo’s plans to exact revenge on his ex-wife, family and friends is emerging as investigators pour over computer, phone and other records in an attempt to piece together the last few months of Pardo’s life. New findings include a plot to not only kill his ex-wife’s family, but her attorney and even Pardo’s own mother.
The aftermath of his actions has those who knew Pardo wondering what signs were missed, how this could have happened and how the community can help each other and the devastated Ortega family.
“Many of you have already heard of the tragic events that unfolded on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the murder-suicide in Covina, perpetrated by one of our parishioners,” said Father Ed Dover, pastor of Holy Redeemer Church during Mass last Sunday. “Bruce Pardo was a member of our parish and an usher at our 5:30 Sunday evening Mass.”
Bruce and Sylvia Pardo were married in January 2006. It was his first marriage, her third. She entered the relationship with three children. Reportedly, unbeknownst to Sylvia, years before they met Pardo had a child who suffered from brain damage in a near-drowning accident. The couple’s relationship began to deteriorate shortly after they were married; their divorce was finalized in mid-December this year. According to records, Sylvia was granted a cash settlement and the couple’s dog. A neighbor, who does not wish to be identified, said that although the couple kept to themselves, their marital problems were known.
It had become neighborhood gossip, said the resident. At one point all of Sylvia’s things, including her furniture, were placed out on the front lawn by her husband.
But no one could have predicted how the divorce would have affected Pardo.
On Christmas Eve, the former software engineer drove his rented vehicle from his home in the 4000 block of Sunset Avenue in Montrose to the home of his former in-laws, Joseph, 80, and Alicia Ortega, 70. Dressed in a Santa costume, carrying a wrapped package and armed with four semi-automatic weapons, Pardo knocked on the front door of the Ortega’s home about 11:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The Ortegas were having a holiday celebration with about 25 friends and family members. According to reports, an 8-year-old girl ran to open the door. Her excited screams at seeing Santa were soon followed by the horrible sound of gun fire. She was Pardo’s first victim as he shot in the jaw, then went into the home and opened fire on the guests.
Some of the partygoers took cover anywhere they could, including under the dining room table, while others fled, finding refuge in neighbor’s homes. During the rampage, Pardo doused the house with a high octane racing fuel that was contained in the package he had brought, then set the home on fire.
The device used to disburse the fuel was a combination of a compressor, tank and plumbing devices, said Administrative Lt. Patrick Buchanan of the Covina Police.
“It was not sophisticated,” he added.
Police found pieces of wrapping paper stuck to the tank of the device. It was during this time that investigators believe Pardo suffered third degree burns on his arms and hands, Buchanan said.
Pardo left the Ortega home after changing out of the Santa suit and drove to his brother’s house in Sylmar. He booby-trapped the Santa suit and left it in the car’s passenger seat; if it was moved, it would trip wires to ignite a flash fire.
About 3:30 a.m. on Christmas Day, Pardo’s brother contacted the Los Angeles police to say he had discovered his brother dead from an apparent gunshot wound to the head. LAPD contacted Covina police who arrived at the scene and discovered Pardo’s body. When they later moved the booby-trapped suit, it ignited the incendiary device and the rental vehicle was engulfed in flames.
Pardo was found with a reported $17,000 strapped to his leg and an airline ticket in one of his shoes. Originally, it had been released that he had planned to fly to Canada, however investigators later found that was not the case.
“He had a ticket on a Canadian [airline],” Buchanan said. “He was to depart LAX to St. Paul, Minnesota then to Moline, Illinois at the Quad City Airport. He was going there to visit a friend in [a nearby town] in Iowa.”
The friend was waiting at the airport for Pardo, unaware of what he had done.
Later Christmas Day, both police and the media descended upon Sunset Avenue.
Some neighbors reported that they had heard of the murders earlier, but none of them was prepared for the attention brought to their normally quiet street.
“It was non-stop commotion. [Investigators] were just taking stuff out and taking stuff out [of Pardo’s home], looking for clues,” said the neighbor. “You never would have dreamed it.”
About 8 p.m. that night, neighbors were evacuated due to fears Pardo had booby-trapped explosive devices in his home They were allowed to return about 11 p.m.
“We did find some explosives at the home,” Buchanan said. “Two shot guns were found at the home.”
He added that the residence has been cleared and the neighborhood is safe.
The neighbor said that as the story unfolded about what Pardo had done, more media descended upon Sunset Avenue, sometime spilling onto lawns and front porches, refusing to leave.
Covina police discovered that Pardo had rented a second vehicle, a 1999 Toyota RAV4, on Dec. 19; they released a statement to the media asking for the public’s help in finding it.
“[At 8:30 p.m.] a neighbor [in the 2300 block of Glenoaks Boulevard] reported a suspicious vehicle that had been parked on the street for a couple of days,” said Sgt. Tom Lorenz of the Glendale Police Department.
The vehicle matched the second rental agency’s description, and Glendale police responded immediately.
“The neighborhood was evacuated for approximately four hours,” said Glendale Sgt. Tom Lorenz.
The Covina police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s bomb squad arrived and rendered the vehicle safe. Detectives found a canister of gasoline, water bottles, wrapped Christmas presents, two computers and a map of Mexico.
The vehicle was parked near Pardo’s ex-wife’s attorney. Investigators believe that the attorney and his family may have been potential victims of Pardo’s rampage had he not been badly burnt and driven to his brother’s home.
Pardo had been planning the murders for several months, according to Covina investigators.
He had ordered his now infamous Santa suit from Jeri’s Costumes on Briggs Avenue. According to Jeri Deiotte, he had ordered the suit to be made very large. The Pardo’s had been good customers in the past. She made the suit in accordance to his request and he picked it up on Sept. 9.
The dichotomy of Pardo’s personality — attending Mass, eating at local restaurants, talking to neighbors — knowing what he was planning is what seems to be the most difficult to understand by those who knew him. What is not in question, however, is that his final actions left nine members of a family dead, children of that family orphaned and two neighborhoods in shock.
• A fund has been set up for monetary donations to help the family. Checks can be mailed to the Ortega Family Fund, c/o Law Offices of Scott J. Nord, 500 N. Brand Boulevard, Ste. 550, Glendale, 91203.