COVINA, California – A man plotting revenge against his ex-wife dressed up like Santa, went to his former in-laws' Christmas Eve party, shot at partygoers and destroyed his former in-laws' house with a homemade device that sprayed flammable liquid, slaughtering at least nine people before killing himself hours later.
Bruce Pardo, 45, saw his marriage fall apart this year when his wife discovered he had abandoned a brain-damaged son years earlier but continued to claim the boy as a tax write-off, the L.A. Times reported.
Sylvia Pardo was appalled by the news, according to a source close to the police investigation. Pardo had not told her he had a son confined to a wheelchair, who was about 5 when they married in 2006, according to the L.A. Times.
When his wife sought a divorce, Pardo evicted her from their home, piling her belongings on the street, the newspaper reported. The couple reached a "full settlement" in their divorce about a week before the slaughter, ending a marriage the divorce judge said nothing could save.
Sylvia Pardo got the dog. Bruce Pardo got angry.
Police believe he intended to flee to Canada after the Christmas Eve massacre, but his Santa suit melted on his body, leaving him with third-degree burns on both arms. Pardo later shot himself at his brother's home, where authorities found $17,000 on him and a plane ticket for a flight from Los Angeles to Canada.
Police say Pardo used a homemade device to spray racing fuel around the home and that the vapor was ignited by a pilot light or candle. They found what they described as a virtual bomb-making factory at Pardo's Montrose home, and that a rented car he had been driving was full of explosives and ammo. Police, suspecting the car could be booby-trapped, fired an incendiary device into it, and the whole thing exploded and burned, MyFoxNY reported.
Court documents showed Pardo had been employed at the radar division of ITT Electronic Systems, a military defense supplier, until July.
Los Angeles County coroner's official Lt. Larry Dietz announced on Friday a ninth body was recovered from the home. All of the bodies recovered from the home were badly burned and none have been positively identified.
Pardo's ex-wife and her parents, Joseph Ortega, 80, and his wife Alicia, 70, were believed to be among the dead. Investigators returned to the scene Friday and sifted through the ashes of the Covina, Calif. home, which Pardo set ablaze using a homemade device disguised as a wrapped gift that sprayed burning liquid.
Police suspect Pardo carried out the massacre as an act of revenge against his ex-wife after their divorce. Pardo had no criminal record and no history of violence, according to police.
"It was not an amicable divorce," police Lt. Pat Buchanan said.
Stanley Silver, Pardo's lawyer, told FOX News on Friday that he spoke with his client a day or two before the shooting and said Pardo was happy about the divorce.
"Pardo was happy that it was all behind him ... ready to move forward with his life and excited about looking for a new job as a computer engineer," Silver said. He wouldn't say what the couple's problems were, but did say Pardo wanted to remain married while his wife wanted the divorce.
Pardo and Ortega separated in March, and Pardo was paying spousal support. He lost his job, so they reached a settlement and Pardo gave his wife $10,000 and she kept her wedding ring, Silver said.
Pardo and Ortega were married for two years. They had no children together, but Ortega had two children from a previous marriage.
Silver told FOX News that he was shocked at the news of Pardo's shooting rampage.
The massacre began around 11:30 p.m. Christmas Eve when an 8-year-old girl answered Pardo's knock at the door. Pardo, dressed as Santa and carrying what appeared to be a large present, pulled out a handgun and shot the child in the face. He then began shooting indiscriminately as about 25 partygoers tried to flee, police said at a news conference.
A 16-year-old girl was shot in the back, and a 20-year-old woman broke her ankle when she escaped by jumping from a second-story window. All three are expected to recover.
The gift-wrapped box Pardo was carrying actually contained a pressurized homemade device he used to spray a liquid that quickly sent the house up in flames. Police said Pardo had recently worked is the aerospace industry.
David Salgado, a neighbor, said he saw the 8-year-old victim being escorted to an ambulance by four SWAT team members as flames up to 40 feet high consumed the house.
"It was really ugly," Salgado said.
Another neighbor, Jan Gregory, said she saw a teenage boy flee the home, screaming, "'They shot my family."'
Following the shootings, Pardo quickly got out of the Santa suit and drove off, witnesses told police. He went to his brother's home about 25 miles away in the Sylmar area of Los Angeles. No one was home, so Pardo let himself in, police said.
Police were called to the home early Thursday, and officers found Pardo dead of a single bullet to the head. Two handguns were found at the scene, and two more were discovered in the wreckage of his former in-laws' house.
The car Pardo is believed to have driven to his brother's home and parked nearby exploded Thursday. More ammunition was found in the car, Los Angeles police Sgt. Francisco Wheeling said. No one was injured in the blast.
Pardo's next-door neighbor, who did not want her name published to protect her privacy, said he moved in more than a year ago with a woman and a child. She said they kept mostly to themselves and the woman later moved out with the child.
Pardo was often seen walking a dog around the neighborhood and working on his lawn, the neighbor said.
He also served regularly as an usher at evening Mass at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Montrose, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Jan Detanna, the head usher at the church, was stunned when told about the violence.
"I'm just — this is shocking," Detanna told the Times. "He was the nicest guy you could imagine. Always a pleasure to talk to, always a big smile."
Bong Garcia, another of Pardo's next-door neighbors, told the Times he saw Pardo between 9 and 10 p.m. Christmas Eve and spoke briefly to him. Pardo told him he was on his way to a Christmas party, Garcia said.
Investigators seeking further information about Pardo's motives have begun searching his home in the suburban Los Angeles community of Montrose.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.