Eyewitness News spoke to the best friend of Sylvia Ortega, Bruce Pardo's ex-wife. She said she almost came to the Christmas Eve party.
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- Press conference: Police call attack "extremely unusual"
- Raw video: Footage from scene of attack
- Interactive map: Knollcrest Dr., where attack occurred
"That was the last time I saw her, and with her family and her mom and her dad," said Roxanne Jauregui.
Jauregui remembers the last time she saw her best friend, Sylvia Ortega. They knew each other for 30 years, and Roxanne wants everyone to know the kind of person Sylvia was.
"I was with her last Saturday," said Jauregui. "And we had lunch, and we toasted to her new life."
Jauregui said she and her family could have been victims; she almost went to that party.
"We didn't end up going because my parents came to visit me," said Jauregui. "And my dad wanted to go to midnight Mass, so I stayed home for my parents. It's eerie, because I don't think we would have had a chance to get out. Really. I mean, if he didn't care about them, do you think he'd care about me, or my husband, or my children?
Jauregui said when Pardo met Ortega two years ago, it appeared to be a nice match. But after they got married, he simply wasn't the same person.
"He just changed," said Jauregui. "His personality changed. He said that she didn't really feel like he loved her. He didn't care for her. Everything he wanted separate, never really wanted to integrate their lives too much."
Jauregui said that during the divorce, it was the issue of money that made Pardo very upset.
"He just didn't want to pay," said Jauregui. "He did not want to pay. He just didn't. Not even a penny. And that's how he was in the marriage, too."
Jauregui had planned to get together with Sylvia Ortega Wednesday to go to Nevada to celebrate the new year and a new life.
Covina police held a community meeting at Royal Oak Middle School at 303 S. Glendora Ave. on Monday night to discuss the tragedy. Hundreds gathered for the town hall meeting.
People affected by the holiday tragedy also received advice on how to cope with their grief at the community meeting.
Police said 45-year-old Pardo began planning the attack six months ago. In June, he purchased guns, and in September he ordered the Santa Claus suit in extra large, presumably to hide all the weapons he was carrying.
He dressed up as Santa Claus and arrived at the party on Wednesday night armed with four guns, fatally shooting his ex-wife Sylvia Pardo, her parents, two brothers and their wives, her sister and a nephew. He then set the house on fire and committed suicide hours later at his brother's house in Sylmar.
Scott Nord, Sylvia Pardo's divorce attorney, identified the deceased as:
- Alicia Ortega, 70, owner of home
- Joseph Ortega, 80, owner of home
- Sylvia Pardo, 43, daughter of Alicia and Joseph, Bruce Pardo's ex-wife
- Charles Ortega, 50, son of Alicia and Joseph, Sylvia's brother
- Cheri Ortega, 45, Charles's wife
- Joseph Ortega Junior, 52, son of Alicia and Joseph, Sylvia's brother
- Teresa Ortega, 51, Joseph Jr.'s wife
- Alicia Ortiz, 46, daughter of Alicia and Joseph, Sylvia's sister
- Michael Ortiz, 17, Alicia's son, Sylvia's nephew
Police said Pardo had planned to also kill his ex-wife's attorney, but suffered third degree burns when he was torching the house. Authorities say the intensity of the flames actually melted part of Pardo's Santa suit onto his body before he fled.
"Mr. Pardo was going through some type of marital problems, and we believe that this residence is a relative's residence," said Covina Police Lieutenant Pat Buchanan during a press conference Thursday.
Pardo had no criminal record and no history of violence, according to police, but he was reportedly angry about a recent divorce settlement, which was finalized six days before the assault. He and his ex-wife had been married for about one year. Pardo had also reportedly just lost his job as an aerospace engineer.
At approximately 11:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, officers responded to several 911 calls of shots fired in a Covina neighborhood. (LISTEN: 911 call) They arrived at the house on the 1100 block of Knollcrest Drive and heard sounds of gunfire. The house was partially engulfed in flames.
Numerous people were fleeing the residence as police arrived the party with as many as 25 people in attendance.
Police said an 8-year-old girl had answered the door and was shot in the face by the gunman, who then began shooting indiscriminately into the crowd, while carrying a large gift-wrapped box that contained a homemade incendiary-propellant device.
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. Those two, and the 8-year-old, remained hospitalized and are expected to recover.
Firefighters extinguished the house fire by 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
A cursory search of the burned-out house revealed three bodies inside. Five more bodies were later found, and the ninth body was found Friday morning in the gutted structure. Authorities were unable to immediately determine whether the victims were killed by the flames or the gunfire.
Pardo's body was discovered by his brother around 3:30 a.m. Thursday at Pardo's brother's Sylmar home. Pardo had a single gunshot wound to his head.
Authorities found $17,000 on Pardo's body, and a plane ticket for a flight from Los Angeles to Moline, Illinois. It was originally reported that the plane ticket was for a flight to Canada.
Detectives also uncovered two more handguns and the key to a rental car on Pardo's body. The car was parked a short distance away from the Sylmar home on Herrick Avenue. Detectives noticed a suspicious device in the car and called in the bomb squad. While attempting to render the device safe, it ignited and blew the car up, but no one was injured in the explosion.
On Saturday, police located a second car that Pardo had rented. Fearing it may be booby-trapped like the first car, a bomb squad was called in to investigate. The vehicle was not booby-trapped, and inside, police found a map of Mexico, water bottles, a gas canister, two computers and some wrapped Christmas gifts, evidence that Pardo may have been headed to Mexico.
Three days after the tragedy in Covina, family and friends returned to the home where the massacre took place with flowers, cards and candles, trying to make sense of what happened.
"I just had to come and say goodbye," said Linda Perez, a family friend. "I've been to this house ... I don't know how many times. I knew every single person that he murdered. It's just not fair."
"I feel like part of my life is in there with them," said Delores Villa, a family member of the victims. "I can't even believe it. None of us. Nobody. We're just like, 'What?'"
Carol Sanchez says she dated Pardo in the 1980s for about four years. She went to look at the crime scene Friday and was in disbelief.
"I'm shocked, I just went through pictures just recently and I saw all these pictures of him from when we dated," said Sanchez. "I'm just like, I'm blown away by this. I just can't believe something like this he would do."
A fund has been set up to assist the Ortega family.
Checks may be mailed to
Ortega Family Fund
C/O Law Offices of Scott J. Nord
500 N. Brand Boulevard
Suite 550, Glendale, Calif., 91203
If you have any additional information about this incident, please call the Covina Police Department at (626) 858-4415 or the Watch Commander at (626) 858-4429.
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