It is nearly seven years since Bruce Jeffrey Pardo killed nine members of the same family and injured three others, before taking his own life, in a brutal Christmas Eve massacre.
The mass murder, which took place at a family party in Covina, Los Angeles, featured a series of shootings and a severe arson attack. A particularly sinister part of Pardo’s crime was his choice of outfit. Dressed as Santa, he entered the house of his former in-laws, armed with multiple guns and a makeshift flamethrower disguised as a Christmas present. The gunman had no criminal record or any previous history of violence and was believed to have planned the murderous rampage as a consequence of his failed marriage and bitter divorce.
The Christmas gathering of approximately 25 people, which descended into a bloodbath, was a tradition for the Ortega-Ortiz family. Thirteen people lost at least one parent in the tragedy, including Leticia Yuzefpolsky, who lost both parents, two brothers, two sisters, two sisters-in-law, and a nephew. Leticia’s eight-year-old daughter was also wounded; shot in the face as she opened the door to ‘Santa’.
It would be unsurprising to hear that Leticia, the surviving daughter of the family, dreads the festive period year after year. But that is not the case. Instead, she has tried to maintain her tight-knit family’s traditions, even mastering her mother’s Mexican soup recipe to serve at the Christmas gathering. She has tried to ‘save’ Christmas for her children, explaining that the real Santa was not the one who inflicted the tragedy upon their family. The remaining family members still meet to exchange gifts and share memories. But that doesn’t mean December isn’t accompanied with an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness for Leticia and her relatives. Now their Christmas Day trip to church is followed by a trip to the cemetery.
Shortly after the massacre in 2008, the Los Angeles Times published an article in which the perpetrator, Pardo, was described by former acquaintances as “quirky and different, but a super-nice guy”. It also began to emerge in the press that Pardo had lost his job not long before the rampage, which resulted in substantial financial troubles, made worse by his divorce settlement.
The massacre has been referenced a number of times in popular culture; the 2012 film “Silent Night”, and notably the song “Black Christmas” by British punk-rock singer-songwriter Poly Styrene. Perhaps referring to both Pardo as well as the surviving victims, she sings, “all alone drowning in my sorrows, Christmastime always brings my sadness home… oh no, we’re not merry, no.” Set to a reggae beat, the song is an anti-Christmas anthem, and makes for an eerie listen when one knows the background to its lyrics.