Page last updated at 04:18 GMT, Saturday, 27 December 2008

LA suburb's shock at Santa killer

Bruce Jeffrey Pardo. Police pic
Bruce Pardo shot an eight-year-old girl in the face, police said

Residents of a Los Angeles suburb have expressed their shock at Wednesday's killings of at least nine people by a gunman dressed as Santa Claus.

Bruce Pardo burst into a Christmas Eve party at his ex-wife's parents' home in Covina, shooting and starting the fire.

He then took his life with a shot to the head at his brother's home about 25 miles (40km) away, police said.

Officials later said it appeared that he wanted to flee to Canada but was severely burned in the incident.

Law enforcement authorities in California found $17,000 (11,658) on Mr Pardo and a plane ticket to Canada.

Pardo is said to have suffered third-degree burns on both arms and his Santa suit actually melted onto his body before he fled the house in Covina.

A Los Angeles County coroner said earlier in the day that a ninth body had been found - all of them badly burned and none as yet positively identified.

Local media have reported that Pardo's ex-wife and in-laws were among the dead but this has not been officially confirmed.

'Money problems'

The quiet suburb is still in shock at the events.

LA Santa killer 'planned to flee'

One of Pardo's co-workers at a Catholic church, Jan Detanna, told the Whittier Daily News that the unemployed aerospace engineer was "the nicest guy" who "always had a smile".

Details have emerged that Pardo, 45, had reached a divorce settlement just a few days before the attack.

Court documents showed the two-year marriage ended with an award of $10,000 to Sylvia Pardo along with their dog and her wedding ring, while Bruce Pardo took the house.

Bruce Pardo's lawyer, Stanley Silver, told the Associated Press news agency his client had fallen behind on marital support when he lost his job in July.

Pardo had knocked on the door of the home just before midnight, shooting in the face an eight-year-old girl who answered the door, police said. She is being treated for her wounds.

He then sprayed the 25 guests with bullets before setting fire to the house with a home-made incendiary device.

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