Montrose, Calif. Bruce and Sylvia Pardo started the new year in 2006 with all signs pointing to a bright future — an upcoming marriage, a combined income of about $150,000, half-million-dollar home on a quiet cul-de-sac and a beloved dog, Saki.
But things quickly turned sour and divorce documents paint a bitter picture of Bruce Pardo’s increasing desperation as he lost first his wife, then his job and finally the dog. By fall 2008, Pardo was asking a judge to have his ex-wife pay him support and cover his attorney’s fees.
Pardo’s downward slide ended Christmas Eve, when the 45-year-old electrical engineer donned a Santa suit and massacred nine people at his former in-laws’ house in Covina, where a family Christmas party was under way. He then used a homemade device disguised as a present to spray racing fuel that quickly sent the home up in flames.
Pardo had planned to flee to Canada following the killing spree but suffered third-degree burns in the fire — which melted part of the Santa suit to him — and decided to kill himself instead, investigators said. His body, with a bullet wound to the head, was found at his brother’s home about 40 miles away.
The slaughter came six days after Pardo and his ex-wife appeared in court to finalize their divorce. Police believe the dead included Sylvia Pardo, 43, and her parents, Joseph Ortega, 80, and his 70-year-old wife, Alicia. Other suspected victims were Sylvia Pardo’s two brothers and their wives, her sister and a 17-year-old nephew.
Police listed the victims as unaccounted for because coroner’s officials said the nine bodies were too badly charred for immediate identification.
Shocked friends said nothing indicated he was on the verge of a murderous rampage. Pardo had told one friend he planned to usher at the Christmas Eve midnight Mass at his church and told another to expect him for a visit in Iowa around the holidays. He had no previous criminal record.
“I can’t believe I’m seeing my old boyfriend on TV and all the people he destroyed,” said Carol Sanchez, who dated Pardo for four years, when both were 18-year-old high school students.
“He was a very easygoing person, a very friendly guy,” she said. “I would never in my right mind think that he would ever do anything like this.”
Pardo had a 9-year-old son, Matthew, by another former girlfriend, Elena Lucano. He had not seen the child for years, but apparently was claiming him as a dependent for tax purposes.