Mon, Dec 29, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Santa gunman lost job, wife before launching attack

AP , MONTROSE, CALIFORNIA

Bruce and Sylvia Pardo started the new year in 2006 with all signs pointing to a bright future — an upcoming marriage, a combined income of about US$150,000, a half-million-dollar home on a quiet cul-de-sac and a beloved dog, Saki.

But things quickly turned sour and divorce documents paint a bitter picture of Bruce Pardo’s increasing desperation as he lost first his wife, then his job and finally the dog. By fall this year, Pardo was asking a judge to have his former wife pay him support and cover his attorney’s fees.

Pardo’s downward slide ended Christmas Eve, when the 45-year-old electrical engineer donned a Santa suit and massacred nine people at his former in-laws’ house in Covina, where a family Christmas party was under way. He then used a homemade device disguised as a present to spray racing fuel that quickly sent the home up in flames.

The slaughter came six days after Pardo and his former wife appeared in court to finalize their divorce. Police believe the dead included Sylvia Pardo, 43, and her parents, Joseph Ortega, 80, and his 70-year-old wife, Alicia. Other suspected victims were Sylvia Pardo’s two brothers and their wives, her sister and a 17-year-old nephew.

Pardo had a nine-year-old son, Matthew, by another former girlfriend, Elena Lucano. He had not seen the child for years, but apparently was claiming him as a dependent for tax purposes. Lucano told the Los Angeles Times that she didn’t know Pardo was claiming their son as a dependent.

The boy was left severely brain damaged as a toddler when he fell into a backyard swimming pool on Jan. 6, 2001, while Pardo was alone with him at his former home in Woodland Hills, said attorney Jeffrey Alvirez, who represented Lucano in the resulting court case.

Medical costs reached US$340,000. Lucano sued Pardo to obtain money from his US$100,000 homeowner’s insurance policy and about US$36,000 was put into a trust fund for the boy, who requires constant care. Pardo never contributed any more money to the boy’s care.

”He never spent a dime on his son,” Alvirez said.

Alvirez said he would not be surprised if Pardo kept that part of his life a secret from his wife.

Court documents from the Pardos’ nearly yearlong divorce proceeding reveal a marriage that faltered early and then descended into a bitter feud.

The couple married on Jan. 29, 2006, and moved into a home Pardo already owned in Montrose, about 24km north of Los Angeles. The house sits up the hill from the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, where he volunteered as an usher at the children’s Mass.

Sylvia Pardo didn’t bring much money to the marriage — just US$31,000 a year from a job at a flower-breeding company in El Monte — but she brought a five-year-old daughter from a previous relationship and almost all the furniture.

Bruce Pardo was making US$122,000 a year as an electrical engineer at ITT Electronic Systems Radar Systems in Van Nuys, and together the couple built a nest egg of US$88,500 in two years.

Two months later she told him she wanted a divorce.

She filed court papers asking for attorney’s fees and US$3,166 in monthly spousal support. She claimed her husband had drawn down their US$88,500 savings to US$17,000 in two months and was transferring funds to a private account.

In July, Pardo lost his job at ITT and soon was drowning in debt while scrambling to find work. He begged the court to grant him spousal support until he could find employment. He complained in a filing that he had monthly expenses of US$8,900 and ran a monthly deficit of US$2,678. He also had US$31,000 in credit card debt and a US$2,700 monthly mortgage payment.

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