On Christmas eve, 2008. At 11:30pm in Covina California, Bruce Pardon arrived at the home of his ex-in-laws, a couple who had been married for 52 years and loved nothing more than to gather their entire family together on Christmas eve. Family members would start showing up early in the day and the party would go well into the night. The adults would play poker and the kids would play games.
For years, a neighbor would come by, dressed as Santa Claus and surprise the children with gifts. So on December 24th, all seemed normal when the door bell rang and one of the younger grandchildren, an 8 year-old girl, answered the door to see Santa Claus standing there, holding a box wrapped in wrapping paper.
“The family soon realizing this was anything but a story book visit from St. Nick.”
Moments after the door opened, Bruce Pardo, dressed as Santa, pulled out two handguns and immediately shoots the 8 year-old girl in the face. He then steps over her, entering the house and proceeds to move back and forth between shooting indiscriminately and shooting some family members point blank, execution style. He did seem to have some intended targets, his ex wife’s family and close extended family. There were approximately 25 people in the house that night so as you can imagine there was mass chaos as people ran in all directions, trying to get away from the shooter.
In the midst of all the chaos, Bruce stops firing and walks over to the large package wrapped in festive wrapping paper, opens the box and takes out a homemade flame thrower. He then began spraying what was later discovered to be high octane, car racing fuel, all over the inside of the house. There’s no indication that Bruce ignited the fuel but somehow either by a pilot light or a candle in the house, the fuel ignited and there was an explosion. The house quickly covered in flames. The last of the living family members were seen jumping out of windows to escape the fire. Family members ran to neighbors houses to get help. I listened to the 911 call of Bruce’s ex sister in-law and it was heartbreaking. On the Nancy Grace, Crime Stories podcast John Lemley, a cold case investigator said-
“When you have high octane fuel in a very closed environment, what will happen is the people that are alive, that haven’t died from gun shot wounds will inhilate super heated gas, it’s very horrible. The inner lining of the throat and the lungs will automatically singe and it’s a very painful way to die. Not only are you inhilating the debris that’s being consumed, you’re inhilating this super heated gas, which that in itself adds a whole different layer of terror on top of the rest of it.”
The Police Cheif in Covina California said that the flame thrower was a homemade device consisting of two tanks. One tank held C o2 and the other tank held high octane, racing fuel. Once he mixed the two items it would turn into a vapor or atomize and then he was able to deliver the gas vapor all over the residence.
“Mr. Pardo was armed with four hand guns when he went into the residence. All four handguns have been recovered and to the best of our beliefs, as of right now, all guns were empty.”
Firefighters spent 90 minutes putting out the fire and it was then discovered Bruce had taken eight lives. The ninth body, being Bruce Pardos wasn’t discovered until the next day.
Bruce Pardo had apparently left the burning house, suffering from third degree burns, got into his car and drove 30 miles to his brothers house. Luckily his brother wasn’t home at the time but Bruce entered and took his own life with a shot gun. When he was found, because of the heat of the fire it was reported that large chunks of the polyester Santa Claus suit had melted to his body.
People were interviewed saying-
“Bruce was such a nice guy, always a pleasure to talk to, always worked as an usher every Sunday for the children’s mass for the past 6 years.”
So how can someone supposedly so generous and kind suddenly turn into a mass murderer? Well if you take a look at what was going on in his life at the time, there were triggers. Just one week before, his divorce was settled and he was also fired as an electrical engineer. Both being pretty big triggers. He also seemed very resentful of the fact the judge ordered him to pay not only child support for their 3 children but alimony as well. He had no history of mental illness or criminal record before doing this but one red flag jumped out at me while listening to the Nancy Grace podcast. They talked briefly about the fact he has a child with a woman from a previous relationship. One day he was home alone with this child when the child climbed out of his crib, somehow entered the swimming pool and almost died. Leaving him in a vegetative state. I don’t know if he had anything to do with the child almost dying other than obviously not watching him but it definitely seemed like a red flag to me.
Something about the holidays bring out the best or the worst in people. Carole Lieberman a psychiatrist on the Nancy Grace podcast thinks what Bruce did was a metaphor. Saying-
“This was his way of showing her just how burned up he was.”
I’m not sure about the idea that Bruce dressing up like Santa Claus, shooting people and setting the house on fire is a metaphor but I do think he thought about this A LOT in advance and knew that a neighbor would dress up like Santa Claus and bring the children presents since he was probably at previous parties and knew it would be an easier way into the house. What do you think? Let me know in the comments down below and if you found this case interesting, please share!
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