16 Children Orphaned by Christmas Massacre

Sunday, 28 Dec 2008 10:24 PM

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LOS ANGELES – Sixteen children were left orphaned in the Christmas Eve massacre carried out by a gunman dressed as Santa Claus who slaughtered his ex-wife and her family, according to reports.

Los Angeles Coroners officers have yet to officially identify the nine people killed by Bruce Pardo, 45, who opened fire at the home of his former in-laws on Wednesday before setting fire to the house and taking his own life.

But the devastating impact upon the family of Pardo's ex-wife became clear on Saturday as police released the names of the nine people classified as missing who are presumed to have been killed by the gunman.

The nine were identified as Pardo's ex-wife Sylvia Ortega, her parents, her two brothers and their partners, her sister and her teenage nephew.

Coroner's office assistant chief Ed Winter said Friday the bodies of the victims were burned beyond recognition and that it would take several days for formal identification as officials checked x-ray and dental records.

Sylvia Ortega's three children were at the party but survived, Scott Nord, the family's lawyer, told NBC4 television. "The entire family was wiped out," Nord said. "There's basically like 16 orphans."

Three people were injured in the assault but are expected to survive.

They include an eight-year-old girl who was shot in the face after excitedly opening the door of the home to Pardo because she wanted to see Father Christmas, police told reporters Friday.

No additional victims are expected to be discovered in the charred wreckage of the Ortega's home, which is to bulldozed, police said.

Family lawyer Nord meanwhile told NBC4 that contrary to reports, Pardo's recent divorce from Ortega -- cited as a possible trigger for the attack -- had not been especially acrimonious.

He said there were "no theatrics in the courtroom, no theatrics in the hallway," Nord said. "Everybody was very civil to each other."

"There was no history of domestic violence in this case or none that my client had ever told me about," he said, admitting he was at a loss to explain what may have pushed Pardo over the edge.

"I can't even give you a rationale," Nord said. "I've never seen anything like this happen. I've never even heard of anything like this happening."

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that Pardo's marriage had been strained after Ortega discovered her husband had a brain-damaged son from a previous relationship that he had kept secret.

According to the Times, citing a source close to the police investigation, Ortega was "appalled" that Pardo had abandoned his child yet continued to claim him as a tax write-off.

Police revealed Friday that Pardo had planned to flee to Canada following his attack, but killed himself after being seriously injured as he set fire to his former in-laws' home with a home-made flamethrower that melted his Santa Claus costume to parts of his body.

Pardo shot himself after driving to his brother's home. Covina police said 17,000 dollars was found taped to his body along with a plane ticket to Canada departing early Thursday.

He had also booby-trapped his car, which burst into flames as bomb disposal experts moved in, police revealed.

The Los Angeles Times meanwhile reported that a friend who spoke to Pardo hours before the killings said there had been no hint of the mayhem that was to follow. "I don't know why he snapped," Steve Erwin told the Times.

Copyright © 2008 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

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