Police: Santa Shooter Was Headed to Iowa

Though they lost much of their family in the Christmas Eve attack that left them dead and their house burned to the ground, Joseph and Alicia Ortega have no lack of loved ones left behind to mourn them.

The elderly couple, who came to Southern California from Mexico more than 50 years ago and started a metal-painting business, raised a large, loving family.

The remaining members of that family now are in anguish after the massacre at the Ortegas' home by the vengeful ex-husband of one of their daughters, Sylvia Pardo.

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Bruce Pardo donned a Santa Claus suit and killed nine members of the Ortega family during the Christmas party where the family gathered each year, before setting the house on fire with racing fuel. Pardo later killed himself.

After the shooting, Bruce Pardo had planned to board a plane destined for Moline, Ill., so he could visit a friend across the state border in Iowa, Covina police Lt. Pat Buchanan said.

An earlier report by Los Angeles County coroner's officials that Pardo was bound for Canada was incorrect, Buchanan said.

"They really were a great family," said Jose Castillo, Sylvia Pardo's brother-in-law from an earlier marriage, who came to pay his respects Sunday at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac where the Ortegas' two-story home once stood. "They used to be together all the time."

Joseph Ortega, 80, and Alicia, 70, had retired about 10 years ago from their business painting metal furniture and other items in nearby El Monte.

The couple immigrated to the United States shortly after their marriage 53 years ago in the Mexican city of Torreon, said that city's newspaper, El Siglo de Torreon.

Sylvia Pardo, 43, had been living at her parents' home since her divorce from Bruce Pardo, a 45-year-old electrical engineer, about a year ago, Castillo said.

Her earlier marriage to Jose Castillo's brother, Sabino Castillo, ended with Sabino's death in a traffic accident about 20 years ago, when she was pregnant with the youngest of their two children.

Both children, a 21-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son, escaped unharmed from the party where Bruce Pardo opened fire.

Shock still loomed over the city of Covina, a close-knit suburb of about 47,000 people 25 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

"This is devastating and the most horrific crime in the history of Covina," Mayor Pro Tem Walt Allen III told the Los Angeles Times. "Covina is hometown America. We're like a Midwest town. We're a child and family oriented community. It chills me what occurred."

City, police and county mental health officials planned to hold a public meeting at a middle school Monday night to talk about the community's concerns.

The slaughter came six days after Bruce and Sylvia Pardo appeared in court to finalize their divorce.

Police believe the dead included Sylvia Pardo's two brothers and their wives, her sister and a 17-year-old nephew, as well as her parents.

Police listed the victims as unaccounted for because coroner's officials said the nine bodies were too badly charred for immediate identification.

After suffering third-degree burns in the fire — which melted part of the Santa suit to his body — Pardo decided to shoot himself instead of getting on the plane, investigators said

The rented compact car he had driven to his former in-laws house was rigged to set off 500 rounds of ammunition and later exploded outside his brother's home. No one was injured.

Police also found a second car rented by Pardo, but a bomb squad did not find any explosives in that vehicle. Investigators did find a canister of gasoline, water bottles, wrapped Christmas presents, two computers, and a map of Mexico, police said.