Arraignment scheduled in 911 slaying

Five teens charged with slaying a Covina Hills woman while she was on the phone with 911 are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

This from City News Service, via the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office:

8:30 a.m. POMONA – Arraignment is scheduled for Christopher Santana Christopher Stratis, Christine Alegre and Megali Fernandez, who are charged in the slaying of a woman in her Covina Hills home while she was reporting a break- in to a 911 operator. Dept. N, Pomona Courthouse, 400 Civic Center Plaza.

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Return of the King returns to Winner’s Circle

I’ve been to lots of events at Santa Anita through the years. None was as emotional as Thursday’s second race, which featured Return of the King, a scrappy 7-year-old chestnut gelding with Martin Pedroza aboard.

The connections, Pedroza, trainer David Bernstein and family and friends who filled in for deceased owners Joseph, James and Charles Ortega, saw their horse glide to a come-from-behind victory. They shed tears of joy and sadness.

Jockey Martin Pedroza told me he thought he was guided by angels throughout the race.

Jockey Danny Sorenson told me that despite the competitive nature of the racing business, most of his peers wanted to see Pedroza win.

“It’s like Seabiscuit,” he said. “You want to root for the underdog.”

Here’s the top of Friday’s story:


ARCADIA – Tears freely flowed Thursday at Santa Anita when Return of the King stepped into the Winner’s Circle.

Friends and family members of Joseph, James and Charles Ortega had come to see their seven-year-old chestnut gelding race for perhaps the last time from the barn of trainer David Bernstein.

The three Ortegas were among nine family members slain at a Covina home on Christmas Eve by Bruce Pardo, the estranged husband of Joseph’s daughter Sylvia.

“This was special,” Bernstein said. “It was hard to keep from crying from the moment he left the paddock.”

Here’s the photo caption:  

Jockey Martin Pedroza on Return of the King, center, owned by James
Ortega, takes the lead as they win the 2nd race at Santa Anita Park
Thursday, January 8, 2009 in Arcadia. The Ortega family was killed
during the Christmas Eve massacre in Covina. (SGVN/Staff Photo by
Sarah Reingewirtz/SVCITY)


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Details for Santa Anita fundraiser

This comes from Jerry Rocha, a friend of the Ortega family who is putting together a Santa Anita fundraiser:

Rocha Family and Friends Day at the Races Presents Ortega Family Benefit (Profit from proceeds will go to Ortega Family Trust) February 28th, 2009 Santa Anita Race Track Arcadia, CA Gates Open at 10:30am First Post: 12:30pm Cost: $25.00 adults (18 and over) $10.00 children (17 and under) Includes: Admission, parking, racing program and steak lunch R.S.V.P. by Feb. 15th Jerry Rocha 626-945-6729 Jim Rocha 909-267-8623

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Covina shooting details emerge — arrest made

Police believed this shooting was gang related — perhaps Azusa 13 vs West Covina Mob Pirus. In any event, an arrest was made. Here’s this morning’s story:

COVINA – Covina police made an arrest yesterday in connection with a shooting that occurred Tuesday afternoon near Las Palmas Middle School, according to officials.

Carlos Pineda, 20, of Azusa was arrested on suspicion of shooting and injuring two young men in the 500 block of Lark Ellen Avenue, according to Covina police Sgt. Dave Foster.

Both men were shot in the leg, fled across the grounds of the school and took refuge in a nearby apartment. A third man with them escaped injury, according to Covina Sgt. David Povero.

No other arrests have been made.

Pineda is in the custody of Covina police. Foster said Pineda will be charged with assault with a deadly weapon



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Ortega’s horse Return of the King returns to track this p.m.

Return of the King, the JJO Stables horse owned by Joseph and James Ortega, runs the second race at Santa Anita this afternoon. Post time is about 1:30 p.m.

Here’s today’s program. Return of the King is the 5/2 morning line favorite.

The Ortegas were among nine people slain in Covina on Christmas Eve by Bruce Pardo. All the slain were members of the same family and relatives of Pardo’s estranged wife Sylvia.

As for the race, its a 6 furlong claimer, with prices between $40,000 and $35,000.  — which means the horse is for sale and could be claimed by another owner this afternoon.

Martin Pedroza will ride. The consensus of handicappers working for the SGVN predicts Return of the King will find the winner’s circle.



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Cops investigate Covina gang shooting

A shooting at a Covina apartment complex has left at least one man wounded and four under arrest. Police followed a trail of blood and small caliber shell casings as they made their way through the crime scene near the the Las Palmas Apartments at 777 W. Covina Avenue.

Apparently the shooting stems from a feud between Azusa 13 and the West Covina Pirus, according to police at the scene. There’s a victim who was hit in the leg. A second victim suffered graze wounds Five men were targeted.



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The Covina Massacre

We’ve rounded up al our coverage of the Covina Christmas Eve slayings in one spot on the Internet. You can find the stories here.

Here’s the lead in:

On Christmas Eve, 2008, Bruce Pardo dressed in a Santa Claus suit, armed himself with guns and drove to a house in Covina where his ex-wife, Syliva Pardo, was celebrating with her family. When an 8-year-old girl answered his knock, he shot her in the face. He continued inside, executing Sylvia and other members of her family. He then sprayed fuel in the home, prompting it to catch fire. Eight people died there. Pardo later killed himself, closing out one of the most violent outbursts in the history of the San Gabriel Valley.

Among the Interactive extras on the page are the chilling 911 call from Sylvia’s sister and portions of the divorce records.

We’ve also rounded up photographs, videos, and summaries of the evidence.

Also on the site, is Amanda Baumfeld’s latest story regarding plans for a private memorial for the victims.

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Remembering Sylvia

Reporter Amanda Baumfeld, who has been covering the Christmas Eve Massacre since day one caught up with Sylvia Pardo’s best frend, a Pomona woman who shared her memories Monday. Here’s the top of the story:


COVINA – Roxanne Jauregui talked to her best friend Sylvia Pardo nearly every day for the last 30 years.

Monday she remained unable to cope with the fact that Sylvia is gone. So, Jauregui continues to leave messages on a cell phone owned by Sylvia trying to hold onto their daily routine.

“I continue to talk to her as if she was still here,” Jauregui, of Pomona, said. “We would talk almost everyday after work; she would tell me her private issues…I know her inside and out. I still believe that she is going to call me.”

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Tuesday’s column

What kind of monster dresses as Santa Claus and shoots an 8-year- old girl in the face as she expectantly greets him at the front door on Christmas Eve?

What kind of monster systematically executes nine people with semiautomatic handguns, takes out a homemade flamethrower festooned with Christmas wrapping and burns a two-story house to the ground?

What kind of monster takes out a whole family gathered together to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace?

What kind of monster rigs his rental car to explode with the hope that more victims will be added to the unfathomable death toll?

What kind of monster could be so enraged by a failed marriage and an acrimonious divorce that he could be driven to commit the most evil acts imaginable?

Those questions have been on my mind since Christmas Day. It was then we first learned that Bruce Pardo, 45, of Montrose killed nine members of the same family who had gathered at a Covina home on Knollcrest Drive.

An explosion from the blaze Pardo set off seared the Santa suit to his flesh. His getaway to Moline, Ill., or Davenport, Iowa, became unlikely.

Pardo, who spent months planning his attack, slipped past police responding to the horrific scene and made his way to a brother’s home in Sylmar.

The questions began to form in the minds of first responders who spent early Christmas morning grappling with the monster’s appetite for destruction.

But the monster did not stick around to answer the questions. The monster took the coward’s way out. He saved the last semi-automatic round for himself, completing the purchase of his one-way ticket to hell.

As a result, there is no accounting for the pure evil of the monster other than facts that could apply to anyone.

The monster lived among us.

The monster had a family.

The monster felt affection for his dog.

The monster achieved high grades in high school.

The monster attended college.

The monster worked as a software engineer.

The monster’s friends recalled him as quiet and unassuming.

The monster spent his Sunday evenings ushering the children’s Mass at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Montrose.

The monster wished acquaintances Merry Christmas.

The questions and the irrelevance of the answers loomed large on Knollcrest Drive on Monday morning — five days after the massacre that likely claimed the lives of Jose and Alicia Ortega, two of their sons, two of their daughters-in-law, two daughters and a grandson.

I went there hoping to learn something — anything.

I left there with a profound feeling of despair and sadness for a loving and close-knit family taken out by a selfish, soulless and sociopathic monster who turned a day of joy into something we will never understand or comprehend.

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