ByMelissa Thomas, writer at
Horror blogger. Find more of my work at Email me at [email protected]
Melissa Thomas

Santa is viewed by many cultures as a jolly soul with rosy cheeks and a belly that jiggles when he laughs, but sometimes Santa goes to the dark side. There are countless stories of killer Santas across the globe, but the worst to happen in the U.S. happened on Christmas Eve 2008 in Covina, California. This atrocity would later be called The Covina Massacre.

The Suspect

This killer Santa was 45-year-old Bruce Pardo, he was an electrical engineer at ITT Electronic Systems, Radar Systems. Pardo married his wife (Sylvia Ortega) in January of 2006, but the marriage was less than perfect. Pardo was accused of hiding a child from a previous marriage and the couple had countless other problems between them. They eventually grew apart and his wife filed for divorce about a year after their wedding.

The Crime

At approximately 11:30 PM on December 24, 2008, Pardo rang the doorbell at the residence of his ex in-laws (which was occupied by around 25 people). He was dressed in a Santa suit and was holding a gift-wrapped package. The package was not an innocent Christmas gift- it was a homemade flamethrower.

Flamethrower used in the attack
Flamethrower used in the attack

Pardo used the flamethrower to spray high-octane fuel and to set the home on fire. In his other hand, he held a 9mm semi-automatic handgun. Once he started the fire, he began shooting.

After the attack, Pardo changed his clothes and left the scene in his rental car. He drove to his brother's house (approximately 30 miles away), but his brother was not home at the time. Pardo was later found dead in the car from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Also inside the car, police found 13-round capacity handguns (all empty) as well as 200 rounds of ammunition. The bomb squad had to be called to remove the evidence safely.

In his home, police recovered five empty boxes for semi-automatic handguns, two shot guns and a container of high-octane gasoline. They also discovered (what was described as) a "virtual bomb factory".

The fire that he set took 80 firefighters and an hour and a half to extinguish. The death toll from the fire and the shooting would rise to 9 (10 if you count Pardo) ranging in age from 17 to 80; one of the victims was Pardo's ex-wife Sylvia.

The Motive

Crime Scene Photo
Crime Scene Photo

Authorities believe Pardo's motives were the loss of his job and the divorce. He lost his job in July of 2008 and around the same time, his divorce got very messy. In a court ruling, he was ordered to pay his ex-wife $10,000 in spousal support (which he contested). Pardo argued that his ex was living with her parents, paying no rent and that she had a gambling problem. He was disgruntled because (even after contesting) the judge still ruled in his ex-wife's favor.

Inspiration For a Film

The 2012 film Silent Night (which starred Malcolm McDowell, Jamie King and Donel Logue) was inspired by the Covina Massacre. In the film, a man dressed in a Santa suit comes to a Christmas party with (you guessed it) a homemade flamethrower. Who was in attendance at this party? The man's ex-wife. So, the next time you enjoy this holiday slasher film, remember that it was based on a truly horrific series of events.

The next time you see a jolly man dressed in a Santa suit, will you be able to look at him the same way? Just remember, the average person (statistically) will walk past or speak to a murderer about 36 times in their lifetime. Happy holidays!


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