Funeral held for victims of Christmas shooting

/ Source: The Associated Press

Hundreds of people packed a church Friday for the funeral of nine family members killed by a gunman dressed as Santa during a Christmas Eve party.

No coffins were on display at Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church. Instead, photos of the victims were displayed on easels and their ashes were held in an urn and small boxes at the altar.

"The Ortega family is the closest family I ever met," family friend Eddie Perry told those at the church. "They were always the ones to get a good time started."

The nine bodies were found shot and burned after Bruce Pardo burst into the party and started killing people before setting the house on fire and eventually killing himself.

He killed his ex-wife Sylvia Pardo, her parents Joseph and Alicia Ortega, and six family members.

Perry was the only speaker after the Mass. He talked about each family member, recalling how Alicia Ortega had said she wanted to die before her husband because she couldn't live without him.

The couple loved baseball, gambling and playing cards, among other things, Perry said.

"I thank God for each and every moment with the Ortegas," he said.

He also recalled that James Ortega owned a racehorse named Return of the King. The horse scored a come-from-behind victory at Santa Anita last week, racing for the last time in the name of its owner.

The funeral ended with a trumpet solo of "Amazing Grace" and the call to post played before horse races.

'Holding together'
Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony was among the mourners and welcomed family members from Mexico. Priests from other parishes and law enforcement officials also attended.

Vivian Young, 16, was among those who attended a prayer vigil Thursday evening. Her classmate, 17-year-old Michael Ortiz, was among the victims of the attack.

She said she saw the solidarity of the relatives. unable to hide their sorrow but determined to recover from the tragedy.

"They were holding back, holding together," Young said. "Trying to be strong for everyone else, trying to get through it together."