COVINA, Calif. (AP) - Police found a second vehicle rented by a man believed to have killed nine of his former in-laws in a Christmas Eve massacre but no explosives were found inside.
The grey 1999 Toyota RAV 4 was found late Saturday, said police spokesman Lt. Pat Buchanan. Authorities were concerned the vehicle
rented by Bruce Jeffrey Pardo from a Pasadena agency last week could have been rigged in a similar fashion to another rental car that blew up Thursday as bomb experts were investigating it. No one was injured in the first search.
Pardo, who dressed in a Santa suit and shot his way into his former in-laws' home during a Christmas Eve party, rented a small compact car to drive to the Covina home of Joseph and Alicia Ortega. He drove off in it after he sprayed bullets at the guests and a vapor of high-octane racing fuel that torched the two-story home in minutes.
Police said he then boobytrapped the car by wiring the Santa suit to a tripwire rigged to set off 500 rounds of ammunition.
Pardo is believed to have killed nine members of the Ortega family. The bodies found in the ruins of the Covina home, which has been demolished because the fire left it structurally unsafe, were so badly burned that it could be days before the victims are officially identified. In the meantime, police have listed them as missing.
Lt. Pat Buchanan on Saturday identified the unaccounted for as Pardo's 43-year-old former wife, Sylvia Pardo; her parents, Joseph Ortega, 80, and Alicia Ortega, 70; her 46-year-old sister, Alicia Ortiz, and her sister's 17-year-old son, Michael Ortiz.
Also missing were a brother, Charles Ortega, 50, and his wife, Cheri, 45; and another brother, James, 52, and his wife, Teresa, 51.
Don and Mitzie Avery, Charles and Cheri Ortega's neighbors in Covina, said Saturday that they had known the couple since they moved next door in 1986 and over the years had developed a close, familial relationship with them.
The Averys said they attended many of the Ortegas' functions, including Charles' 50th birthday party in Stateline, Nev., earlier this month. "When you're a friend of the Ortegas, you're a member of their family," Don Avery said.
They had met Bruce Pardo a couple times and knew about his acrimonious split from Charles' sister Sylvia, they said. "We knew it was a messy divorce, but we didn't know the particulars," said Mitzie Avery, choking back tears.
On Christmas Eve, Mitzie Avery said they borrowed chairs from the Ortegas for a Christmas party and Cheri Ortega gave Mitizie a present of a snowman decoration before saying "I'll see you tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Pardo's mother said amid sobs Saturday that she was close to falling apart over the devastating news. She had spoken with one of Sylvia Pardo's three children from a previous marriage and was pleased to hear the family did not hold any animosity toward her.
"It would have been so easy for that family to hate me," Nancy Windsor, 72, said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times. "And Sal was just so wonderful. He said, 'We love you, and
you're family.' I love them so much. And it's very hard this has happened."
Windsor, who has been living out of a suitcase since a wildfire destroyed her mobile home in Sylmar last month, said she wanted any
money from her son's estate to be put into a fund to help the children of her former daughter-in-law.
"Anything that our family realized from Bruce's vehicle, from the money on him, whenever that's released, everything is going to my grandchildren. I want it for my grandchildren," Windsor said. "Everybody says the grandchildren are the best. In this case, they
are the best."
Distraught friends and relatives left bouquets of flowers, devotional candles and stuffed animals to form a makeshift shrine at the police barricade near the destroyed home on East Knollcrest Drive on Saturday.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)