- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2008

COVINA, Calif. | Law-enforcement officials in Southern California say the gunman who killed nine people in a Christmas Eve bloodbath at his former in-laws’ Covina home intended to flee to Canada, but that plan was scotched when he severely burned himself.

Covina Police Chief Kim Raney told reporters Friday that Bruce Pardo had apparently intended to board a flight from Los Angeles to Canada after slaughtering his ex-wife and her family while he was disguised in a Santa Claus suit.

Also Friday, a ninth body was recovered from the charred scene, apparently the final end of a bitter divorce.

Police said Pardo, 45, had torched the crime scene with what appeared to be a home-made flamethrower consisting of two canisters, one containing oxygen or carbon dioxide, the other a high-octane racing fuel. But the vapor was ignited by a pilot light or candle, and Pardo suffered third-degree burns on both arms and had parts of his Santa costume melt onto his body.

Chief Raney also revealed that $17,000 in cash had been found taped to Pardo’s body, which was found Thursday at his brother’s home. He was dead from a single gunshot to the head.

“All indications are he intended to commit the crime, flee the country, and it appears he didn’t anticipate injuring himself to the point where obviously he took his own life,” Chief Raney said.

On Friday, police described Pardo’s carefully planned assault, which began just before midnight on Wednesday when he burst into a party at his former in-laws’ home armed with four pistols and sprayed guests with bullets before setting fire to the house. Excited to see Santa arrive, an 8-year-old girl opened the door.

“He shot her once in the face and proceeded into the residence,” where he began “shooting at the guests indiscriminantly,” Chief Raney told reporters.

Authorities have yet to publicly identify those killed by Pardo, but his ex-wife Sylvia, her parents and other relatives were reportedly among the dead.

Pardo had no criminal record and no history of violence, according to police, but he was angry following last week’s settlement of his divorce after a short marriage.

“No counseling or delay could help restore this marriage,” the settlement stated. “There are irreconcilable differences, which have led to the complete breakdown of the marriage.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the marriage had foundered after Mrs. Pardo discovered he had a “secret” son from a previous relationship.

Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office assistant chief Ed Winter said none of the nine bodies recovered from the crime scene was identifiable.

“The bodies were burned and are charred to the point that are not recognizable,” Mr. Winter said. “We’re going to need both medical X-rays and dental X-rays before we can make positive identification.”

A court summary of the divorce case showed that Mrs. Pardo filed for a dissolution of marriage on March 24, 2008. The summary indicated the two reached a settlement Dec. 18 and were separated after about two years of marriage.

Court documents show Mrs. Pardo got the couple’s dog, her wedding ring and $10,000 in the settlement agreement, while he got the house. In June, the court ordered Pardo to pay $1,785 a month in spousal support and put him on a payment plan of $450 a month for $3,570 that was unpaid.

Pardo’s attorney said his client had trouble making the payments after he lost his job in July, but spousal support was waived in the settlement signed earlier this month. Court documents showed Pardo had been employed at the radar division of ITT Electronic Systems, a military defense supplier, until July.

Pardo also had rigged a sophisticated booby trap inside a rental car, designed to trigger 300 rounds of ammunition and a pipe bomb when officers attempted to move his discarded Santa Claus suit.

“He basically wired the Santa Claus suit with a device to explode,” Chief Raney said. “When it was lifted from the car it would pull a trip wire or switch, ignite a flare inside the car, igniting black powder, and several hundred rounds of ammunition was inside the car. While the squad was rendering the device, it did activate, and the car did burst into flames and was destroyed.”

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