Sunday, December 28, 2008
9 People Dead: A gunman dressed as Santa Claus who opened fire on a Christmas Eve party at the home of his ex-wife's family was planning to flee to Canada, police said yesterday, as a ninth body was recovered from the charred wreckage of the massacre.
Police said Bruce Pardo, 45, was found with $17,000 taped to his body and a plane ticket to Canada after he killed himself following his murderous assault on the home of his former in-laws in the Los Angeles suburb of Covina.
The unemployed aerospace engineer burst into the property armed with four pistols shortly before midnight Wednesday and sprayed guests with bullets before the house erupted in flames.
An 8-year-old girl who had opened the door to Pardo was shot in the face, but survived. Yesterday, police released harrowing 911 calls apparently made by the girl's mother immediately after the incident.
"We need someone immediately. My daughter's been shot. She was shot in the face," the woman said, with the anguished high-pitched wailing of a child clearly audible in the background.
Pardo had recently gone through a bitter divorce with his wife, but there were no further clues as to what might have triggered the murderous rampage.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 250 pound Pardo had no criminal record and nothing in his personal history to suggest a predisposition to violence, police said. Friends from a church Pardo attended regularly expressed disbelief.
"He was just the nicest guy," said Jan Detanna, who worked with Pardo as an usher at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church.
Covina police chief Kim Raney told reporters Pardo had bought a ticket to Canada leaving early Christmas morning, but scrapped plans to go on the run after suffering third-degree burns in the house blaze that melted parts of his Santa Claus costume to his body, Raney said.
"All indications are he intended to commit the crime, flee the country and, it appears, he didn't anticipate injuring himself to the point where, obviously, he took his own life," Raney said.
Police said Pardo had arrived at the house with what appeared to be a homemade flamethrower comprised of two canisters, one containing oxygen or carbon dioxide, the other a high-octane racing fuel.
However police believe the device exploded sooner than Pardo intended, leaving him with serious burn injuries.
Hours after the rampage, Pardo killed himself with a single shot to the head at his brother's home in Sylmar, approximately 40 kilometres away.
Police revealed that the car used by Pardo in the attack, found outside his brother's home, had been rigged with a booby trap to be be triggered when officers attempted to move his discarded Santa Claus suit.
The car burst into flames as bomb disposal experts attempted to deactivate the advice. No officers were hurt in the explosion.
Authorities have yet to publicly identify those killed by Pardo, but local media reported the victim's ex-wife and in-laws were among the dead.
Los Angeles County Coroner's Office assistant chief Ed Winter said none of the nine bodies recovered from the crime scene were identifiable.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
"AFTER THE DANCE"
by Lori Johnson
Faye Abrahams is a thirtysomething woman faced with an important decision. Should she A) abandon her "hit it and quit it" credo and take up with Carl, the divorced father of three who appears intent on slow dancing his way into her heart? Or, should she go with option B) and give her childhood sweetheart, Venard, aka Scoobie, a chance to prove he's truly the changed man his newfound spirituality and success as a corporate chef suggests? Further complicating Faye's choice is the sudden unraveling of a secret from her past that she has long kept from everyone . . .
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Democrat appeared in court Tuesday afternoon to hear federal corruption charges against him and was released on $4,500 bail.
"He's sad, surprised and innocent," Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky told reporters Tuesday night.
Early Tuesday, FBI agents arrested Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, on charges that the governor attempted to sell or trade President-elect Barack Obama's former Senate seat in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife, Patti.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers said they are preparing to take from the governor his power to fill the vacant Senate seat. Otherwise, Blagojevich -- despite the charges he faces -- could still move to nominate anyone he chooses for Obama's replacement.
Jay Stewart, executive director of Chicago's Better Government Association, said Blagojevich retains the right to fill the Senate vacancy until he's out of office, which won't happen unless he quits or is removed by impeachment.
The government had bugged the governor's campaign office, placed a tap on his home phone and listened to the governor talk about wanting possible deals, said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
According to the affidavit, Blagojevich was recorded saying of the Senate seat: "I've got this thing and it's [expletive] golden and uh, uh, I'm not just giving it up for [expletive] nothing."
"Gov. Blagojevich has taken us to a new low," Fitzgerald said Tuesday. "This conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave."
Both Blagojevich and Harris were charged with a count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and a count of solicitation of bribery, authorities said.
The 76-page affidavit, which describe Blagojevich's actions as a "crime spree," alleges that the governor often weighed the option of appointing himself to the Senate seat.
He said he was "stuck" at governor and might have access to more resources as a senator than as a governor, the affidavit said. A Senate seat also could help him remake his image ahead of a possible presidential run in 2016. "If ... they're not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it," he said in one conversation.
Obama reacted at a news conference Tuesday.
"Obviously, like the rest of the people of Illinois, I am saddened and sobered by the news that came out of the U.S. attorney's office today," he said. "But as this is an ongoing investigation involving the governor, I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the issue at this time."
Obama said he had no contact with the governor or his office about the Senate seat. "I was not aware of what was happening," he added.
At times, Blagojevich discussed obtaining a substantial salary for himself at a nonprofit group or an organization affiliated with labor unions as well as placing his wife on paid corporate boards, where she might make as much as $150,000 a year, the government said.
During one recorded conversation, Blagojevich said he needed to consider his family and said he was financially hurting, the affidavit said.
"I want to make money," Blagojevich said, according to the affidavit.
The intercepted phone calls also caught the governor and Harris discussing the possibility of the Tribune Co.'s obtaining assistance from the Illinois Finance Authority in efforts to sell the Chicago Cubs and the financing or sale of Wrigley Field, the government said. The company owns the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs and Wrigley Field.
Tribune announced Monday that it is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Blagojevich allegedly directed Harris to tell Tribune officials that state assistance would be withheld unless members of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board were fired. The Illinois governor saw them as "driving discussion of his possible impeachment," the affidavit said.
"Our recommendation is fire all those [expletive] people, get 'em the [expletive] out of there and get us some editorial support," the governor allegedly said in one phone call.
Federal authorities also allege the governor and Harris schemed with others -- including convicted real estate developer Antoin "Tony" Rezko -- to obtain financial benefits for himself, his family and others, including his campaign committee, Friends of Blagojevich.
Reports from the Chicago Tribune last week said federal authorities were investigating the governor and were secretly taping his conversations -- with the help of his former congressional chief of staff, John Wyem.
"I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me," Blagojevich told WLS-TV in Chicago on Monday as he responded to the reports of wiretapping. "I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me."
He added, "By the way, I should say if anyone wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead, feel free to do it. I appreciate anybody who wants to tape me openly."
Fitzgerald said the case required "unusual measures" because of actions Blagojevich was expected to take soon, including filling the vacant Senate seat. "There were a lot of things going on that were imminent," he said.
"We were in the middle of a corruption crime spree, and we wanted to stop it," Fitzgerald said.
At a news conference Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said he wants the state Legislature to act quickly to pass a law setting up a special election to fill Obama's seat to prevent Blagojevich from making an appointment.
"No appointment by this governor under these circumstances could produce a credible replacement," Durbin said.
Fitzgerald said Blagojevich was looking to pull $8 million in funding for a children's hospital after the hospital's chief executive officer did not give a $50,000 contribution to the governor's campaign.
Also, Fitzgerald said, it was expected that Blagojevich would soon sign into law a bill that would direct a percentage of casino revenue to the horse racing industry -- a bill supported by someone who contributed $100,000.
"To let that bill be signed, to me, would be very, very troubling," Fitzgerald said.
The governor's office said the allegations "do nothing to impact the services, duties or function of the state."
"Our state will continue to ensure health, safety and economic stability for the citizens of Illinois."
Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said the governor should use a provision in the Illinois Constitution that allows him to step down but not necessarily to resign. "I recommend to the governor to realize ... that he cannot carry out his responsibilities of office today, and he should, in my opinion, step aside."
Quinn, a Democrat, said under the provision, a determination can be made later as to whether he can return to office.
Quinn said he had not spoken to Blagojevich at length since summer 2007.
Blagojevich, who turns 52 on Wednesday, is in his second four-year term as Illinois governor. His term ends in January 2011.
He served as a U.S. congressman for Illinois' 5th Congressional District from 1997 until 2003, according to his online biography.
He and his wife have two daughters.
The state's last governor, George Ryan, was convicted in April 2006 on racketeering and fraud charges.
Ryan reported to a federal prison in Wisconsin in November 2007 to serve a 6½-year sentence. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not hear an appeal from Ryan.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Shekinah Prison Ministries
Doris Riley, Co-Founder
At the age of 18 months, my father was unjustly removed from my life; as a result my childhood was spent in poverty, living in the backwoods of Arkansas. My mother was left with two very small children; myself only 18 months, my brother three years old and she was 4 months pregnant with another child.
Although we were able to visit my father in prison, the visits were infrequent because my mother could not drive nor had the financial means to pay others to take us. I remember vividly as a little girl becoming familiar with the routine of visitation within a jail. Often my brothers and I were faced with mockery from the other children at school and the shame of our father's confinement in prison.
There were many, many challenges that we faced as a family just because we were left behind. It seemed no one cared or understood the affects of losing our father. How he was suddenly snatched from the lives of his wife and three small children and how a mother in her twenties without a high school education had to be the sole provider for her family. I thank God today that He was faithful to take care of us and we survived.
In 2004 one of my brothers (the one my mom was pregnant with) was incarcerated and left behind a 2 year old daughter, and two sons 9 and 17 years old. When this occurred my husband and I began to assist my brother's family financially, emotionally, and with much prayer. We also provided the children with gifts during the Christmas season.
This incident triggered the memory of my childhood and my heart began to feel the pain and feelings of abandonment of children all over this country. After much research, I was shocked and appalled at the high percentage of children who are left behind. My husband Joseph and I felt impressed of God to help the many children all over this country who have a mom or dad incarcerated.
Shekinah Prison Ministries' Staff
Joseph & Doris Riley, Founders
Joseph Riley, President
Konstance Riley, Account Executive
Sonia Morris, Regional Service Coordinator
Shekinah Prison Ministries is a non-profit organization that assists children/families of those incarcerated nationally. We serve as an emergency support to the children and families through out the year and provide gifts during the holiday season. Our goal is to be a support to families who suddenly find themselves as sole caregivers of children related to an incarcerated spouse or parent.
What We Do
We are dedicated to establishing a relationship with families of those incarcerated to provide support and to connect them with needed resources of survival as a family. Shekinah Prison Ministries specialize in minimizing the impact of incarceration to the families that are left behind. Services offered:
• Assistance with clothing and school supplies
• Emergency Financial Assistance
• Gifts during the Holiday Season
• Training: Anger Management, Financial Management & Drama Classes
• Resource Referral
BECOME A VOLUNTEER!
MAKE A DONATION...
P. O. Box 278
Olive Branch, MS 38654