COVINA, Calif. - A man who dressed as Santa and carried out a Christmas Eve massacre at the home of his former in-laws apparently intended to flee the country, but his plans were dashed after the inferno he created severely burned his arms and melted his costume onto his body, police said yesterday.

Bruce Pardo, 45, a laid-off aerospace worker with no criminal record, apparently shot some of his nine victims execution-style in a plot to destroy his ex-wife's family after a costly divorce that was made final last week. He had airline tickets to Canada and $17,000 in cash on his body, some attached to his legs with plastic wrap and some in a girdle, Covina Police Chief Kim Raney said.

Pardo showed up at the home late Wednesday as a party of about 25 people was under way. Raney said Pardo fired a shot into the face of a girl who answered the door and at first fired indiscriminately, then apparently targeted relatives of his ex-wife as other guests fled.

Pardo retrieved a device that mixed carbon dioxide or oxygen with high-octane racing fuel, police said. Fleeing guests saw him spraying the fuel inside the house when the vapor was ignited, possibly by a pilot light or a candle, and exploded. "Mr. Pardo was severely injured during that explosion," Raney said.

Pardo was able to drive to his brother's home, broke in and shot himself in the head. His brother later found the body. Before the suicide, Pardo used remnants of the Santa suit to booby-trap his rental car to explode, the chief said.