LOS ANGELES – After a Christmas Eve slaying in suburban Covina that left nine people dead, surviving family members on Sunday were grappling with how to best care for the victims’ children.
At least 13 young people were orphaned after the shooting, and two others lost a parent, according to a family attorney.
“We have to help them,” said Jose Castillo, a relative who came out to the crime scene on Sunday to pay his respects.
The shooting on Christmas Eve was at the Ortega family home. The ex-husband of one of the Ortegas came to their annual party dressed as Santa Claus and armed with four semiautomatic weapons and an incendiary device.
Bruce Jeffrey Pardo left after family members were dead and the house was fully ablaze. Sixteen others at the holiday party survived by hiding under furniture, jumping out second-story windows and off the roof. Pardo later killed himself.
Castillo and his wife, Rocio, knew the Ortega family well.
“We would always eat together, typical Mexican food,” said 42-year-old Rocio Castillo as she stood outside the now-bulldozed, two-story Covina house.
Jose Castillo’s brother was first married to Sylvia Pardo, one of the Ortega children who died Christmas Eve, and fathered two of her three children before he was killed in a car crash in Arizona about 20 years ago.
Rocio and Jose Castillo had remained close with Sylvia and their niece and nephew, Selina and Sal Castillo, who escaped the mayhem on Christmas Eve.
Their former stepfather, Pardo, had finalized his divorce with Sylvia about a week before the shootings.
The Castillos wondered how best to care for Selina and Sal, and said family members were trying to work out who would be the young people’s guardians, who would help support them, and where they would stay.
“There is feeling of total helplessness. … It has emotionally affected a lot of people in Covina,” said Mayor Pro Tem Walt Allen III.
He said mental health professionals are being brought in to help not only the family but also neighbors and members of the community of less than 50,000 people.
Bruce Pardo’s mother, 72-year-old Nancy Windsor, said over the weekend that she spoke with Sal Castillo on the phone and wanted to establish a fund for him and the rest of her former daughter-in-law’s family.
“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.
Scott Nord, an attorney for the family, said relatives “are going to need financial help … because this is going to be a massive, massive funeral cost.”
Police continued their investigation over the weekend and found another of Pardo’s vehicles.
The gray 1999 Toyota RAV 4 was found late Saturday in Glendale.
Police found no evidence of explosives or a triggering device in the RAV 4 but recovered a canister of gasoline, water bottles, camping supplies, wrapped Christmas presents, two computers and a map of Mexico.
Allen said it appeared as though Pardo “had been planning this a long time.”