Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bad Santa

Sorry to drop this on you during the holidays but I should warn you, this post is about a grizzly crime. If you're not up for it, please don't read today's post.

Bruce Pardo killed 9 people on Christmas Day
I've always been fascinated by true crime. It helps to be up on the latest terrible things people do to each other world when your job is writing fictional stories about cops and detectives and bad, bad guys.

It's not fun for me, for anyone, to read these stories -- it's hard not to think about the lives wrecked by senseless murders, not only those killed but those that are left behind to grieve. And it's a serious mindfuck to try to make sense out of them. Some things don't make any sense, some things are just wrong or evil or both and nothing's gonna change that. Life, it appears, really does suck sometimes.

Yet, you can't help but think 'what if' -- what if the murderer didn't have access to a gun, what if someone discovered his plan and stopped him, what if he shot himself first? Seriously, what about that? Why do these fuckers always kill themselves after they murder as many people as they can?

I bring this up because I've been transfixed by the story of Bruce Pardo, an unemployed electrical engineer, who dressed up in a Santa suit to gain access to his ex-wife's parents' home in a Los Angeles suburb and when he was done shooting at people, including children, and setting the house on fire, nine people were dead, including his ex-wife, her elderly parents, her two brothers and their wives, her sister and a 17-year-old nephew.

Forensic shrinks say these types of murders have "triggers" -- that is something that happens in the killer's life that turns him from angry to mass murderer. This guy had his share -- his divorce had just gone through, he was getting buried under a crushing debt and he was about to lose his dog and probably his house, too. None of that is enough to get me to kill anybody but nobody really understands what despair can do to a person. His original plan was to escape to Canada with his last $17,000 but when he set the house on fire -- using a type of auto fuel -- he suffered excruciating burns up both arms. He drove to his brother's house in Sylmar, Ca., and reportedly shot himself in the head. Or maybe he just couldn't face what he had done.

But by every other account by people who know him, there was no sign of his impending implosion. You wonder what causes these guys to cross the line from regular guy to murderer. I mean when Pardo gained entrance to the house, he reportedly started firing his gun -- first hitting an eight-year-old girl in the face and another young girl in the back. I guess you could imagine him being angry at his ex-wife, but how does that jibe with shooting old people and children? And then burning the whole damn house to the ground? On Christmas? You have to wonder what goes through a person's head to do such a thing.

Is it the relatively easy access to guns and ammo? Is it cultural or societal thing? I sure don't have any answers. And I'm not sure this fucker's story is going to shed any light on it.

Here's some links to the New York Times' coverage of the story, here, here and here.

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