On December 24, 2008, Bruce Pardo went to his ex-wife’s family’s house dressed at Santa Claus, armed with multiple weapons and a flamethrower. He killed nine people.
Pardo had a child with Elena Lucano, a woman who he once was in a relationship with. He was watching his son, Matthew, (who was just over a year old at the time) while Elena went food shopping. Matthew “got away” from Pardo and fell into the pool. Elena arrived home to see Pardo holding the unconscious child. They brought Matthew to the hospital, where he was resuscitated, and brought to the hospital that specializes in pediatrics. Matthew was in intensive care for a few weeks; it was reported that Pardo never left his side during this time. The hospital discharged Matthew was but sustained severe brain trauma and would need a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Six months later, Pardo ended the relationship with Elena. He did not help her with the medical bills, which piled up to $340,000 within the first year. Once Pardo stopped visiting, Elena sued his homeowner’s insurance (but did not sue him personally) for $100,000, which she had no issue collecting. After receiving the money, she never heard from Pardo again.
Pardo met Sylvia Ortega and were married for about a year before she found out about his child from his previous relationship. Sylvia also found out Pardo was claiming the child as a dependent for years, which made her very upset. Elena asked for a divorce in February 2008.
In court documents, Pardo told the judge that Sylvia brought in $31,000 and he brought in $122,000 yearly, indicating that he contributed more money than her to their relationship. Prado was also caring for 3 of Sylvia’s children who were from 2 different past relationships of hers.
Court documents also revealed that he had lost his job as a software engineer and was accumulating debt. He told the courts he did not get severance and was denied unemployment. Pardo argued he could not financially support his wife and claimed that she was living better than he was. According to the records, Pardo reported Sylvia had bought a brand new 2009 luxury car, went on multiple trips to Las Vegas, was eating at fine dining restaurants, had visited Magic Mountain Amusement Park, and had been frequenting massage parlors.
Pardo’s divorce was finalized on December 18, 2008. The judge ordered that Pardo pay Sylvia $10,000. He had to give her wedding ring back, and she got custody of his beloved dog.
Police believed that Pardo had been planning the attack for months. He had bought the guns in June and ordered an extra-large Santa Claus costume in September.
Sylvia was visiting her parents’ James and Alicia Ortega, on Christmas Eve. They were hosting their annual Christmas party for about 25 guests. Around 11:30pm there was a knock at the door; it was a man in a Santa Claus outfit. An 8-year-old girl opened the door and was immediately shot in the face. Pardo started shooting at the guest with a semi-automatic firearm. Some of the surviving victims told news outlets it seemed that Pardo was targeting specific individuals, standing over them and executing them.
Pardo brought a homemade device, which he wrapped like a present, which contained oxygen and high-octane racing fuel. He was spraying the gasses around the house when investigators believed the fuel ignited on its own, injuring Pardo.
Pardo changed out of the Santa outfit, some of which melted onto him, and fled the scene.
Police responded to the 911 calls within four minutes to see the house on fire.
The 8-year-old who was shot in the face and a 16-year-old who was shot in the back both survived. A 20-year-old woman jumped from the window to avoid the flames survived with a broken ankle.
Nine others did not survive the attack:
- Alicia Ortega, 70, Sylvia’s mother & owner of home
- Joseph Ortega, 80, Sylvia’s father & owner of home
- Sylvia Pardo, 43, Bruce Pardo’s ex-wife & daughter of Alicia and Joseph
- Charles Ortega, 50, Sylvia’s brother
- Cheri Ortega, 45, Charles’s wife
- Joseph Ortega Junior, 52, Sylvia’s brother
- Teresa Ortega, 51, Joseph Jr.’s wife
- Alicia Ortiz, 46, Sylvia’s sister
- Michael Ortiz, 17, Alicia’s son & Sylvia’s nephew
The remains of the victims who lost their life were burned beyond recognition and needed to be identified through x-rays and dental records.
Police initially believed Pardo was going to flee the country. Pardo had $17,000 taped to his legs and a plane ticket. Investigators speculate he changed his plans due to the third-degree burns he sustained while in the burning home.
A rental car that Pardo rented was located shortly after the attack. Pardo had rigged the car with a pipe bomb, which was intended to detonate when the Santa outfit was removed from the vehicle. Police had noticed a suspicious device and called bomb squad. The bomb detonated while trying to clear the vehicle; nobody was injured.
Police found a second rental car, which was not rigged with a bomb. In this car, police found water bottles, gas containers, computers, Christmas gifts, and a map of Mexico. This evidence lead police to believe he was going to run to Mexico and the plane ticket may have been a diversion.
Pardo fled to his brother’s house, where he was found at 3 am with a self-inflicted gunshot to his mouth.