COVINA, Calif. - Stinging from an acrimonious divorce, a man plotting revenge against his ex-wife dressed up as Santa, went to his former in-laws' Christmas Eve party, and slaughtered at least six people before killing himself hours later.

Three people were listed as missing after Bruce Pardo's rampage - his ex-wife and her parents - and it was feared that their remains were among the ashes of the parents' home, which Pardo set ablaze using a bizarre homemade device that sprayed flammable liquid.

Pardo, 45, had no criminal record and no history of violence, police said, but he was angry following last week's settlement of his divorce after a marriage that lasted barely a year. "It was not an amicable divorce," Police Lt. Pat Buchanan said.

The massacre began when an 8-year-old girl answered Pardo's knock at the door. Pardo, carrying what appeared to be a large present, pulled out a handgun and shot her in the face, then began shooting indiscriminately as about 25 partygoers tried to flee, police said.

A 16-year-old girl was shot in the back, and a 20-year-old woman broke her ankle jumping from a second-story window. Those two, and the 8-year-old, remained hospitalized yesterday.

The box Pardo was carrying actually contained the device he used to set the fire, police said.

When the fire was extinguished early yesterday, officers found three charred bodies in the living-room area. Investigators found three more bodies amid the ashes later in the day.

None of the dead or missing had been identified.

After the shootings, Pardo got out of the Santa suit and drove off, witnesses told police. He went to his brother's home about 25 miles away. No one was home, so Pardo let himself in, police said. Police were called to the home early yesterday and found Pardo dead of a bullet to the head.