Santa Claus is the ubiquitous hero of Christmas Day, but what happens when he brings terror and death in place of his proverbial gifts?
While there are numerous cases that reveal exactly what happens when old St. Nick develops an affinity for crime and murder, we’re narrowing the list down to the top five “Bad Santas” in true crime history!
5. The Mystery of the Stabbing Santa
In late November, 2005, an east London man was stabbed to death in his bed by an intruder dressed in Santa gear. Sikander Shaheen, 25, was struck repeatedly by the killer, who appeared to have gained entry to Shaheen’s shared house in Green Grove Road without any sign of forced entry or struggle.
According to investigators, Shaheen was a “private, hard-working, religious man” and appeared to have nothing in his lifestyle that would serve as a motive for the killing. Shaheen was rushed to the hospital after neighbors called the police to his house in Leyton in the morning after the attack. Unfortunately, Shaheen died in the hospital and the police were left with no leads on their Santa suspect.
Near the crime scene, the marauding Kris Kringle left behind a red and white hat with an attached full white beard. Although the Santa hat was allegedly forensically examined fifteen years ago, the police are still on the hunt for this sinister Santa.
4. The Ho-Ho-Halloween Party Gone Wrong
In 2017, another bad Santa Claus wreaked havoc on his friends during a Halloween party the he was hosting. During the rambunctious event, a “highly intoxicated” Randall Gaston Jones was allegedly told by his peeved partygoers to go to bed and/or calm down — instead, Jones returned from his room with a gun and pointed it at the crowd.
Jones, 32, fired first at the floor and successfully scattered most of his guests. However, Michael McCloskey attempted to intervene and was shot several times before succumbing to his wounds some hours later. Three other guests were shot, but all of them survived (including one that remained in critical condition for a few days after the incident).
Jones was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as well as murder. Now that’s one wicked Halloween/Christmas cross-over, huh?
3. The Festive Father Who Ended The Festivities
On Christmas Day, 2011, Aziz Yazdanpanah dressed as Santa Claus and gathered with his extended family in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Grapevine. While everyone was opening presents, Yazdanpanah fatally shot his estranged wife, their two teenage children and three other relatives before turning the gun on himself.
Grapevine police believe that Yazdanpanah called 911 before he shot himself. The recording of the 911 call revealed someone saying: “Help, help,” and then “I am shooting people.” Police said that those chilling words were incomprehensible when the dispatcher listened to them on Christmas Day, but eventually became audible when the investigators used a different software system. It remains unclear why Yazdanpanah would leave such a warning, especially because he had attempted to stage the scene and frame his brother-in-law before killing himself.
The sadistic Santa killed his (estranged) wife of 24 years, Fatemeh Rahmati, their 19-year-old daughter Nona and their 14-year-old son Ali. Yazdanpanah also murdered his wife’s sister, Zohreh Rahmaty, her husband, Mohamad Hossein Zarei and their daughter, Sahra.
Investigators believe that Yazdanpanah was severely down on his luck at the time of the Christmas massacre. This Santa, a former real estate professional rather than a joyous gift-giver, had lost his job and was struggling financially for quite some time. Moreover, he and his wife were heading toward a divorce. Why exactly did Yazdanpanah choose to murder six members of his family whilst dressed as Father Christmas? We may never know.
2. The Stick-Up Santa and His Bad Little Helpers
On December 23, 1927, a gun-toting Santa Claus and his three bandits robbed the First National Bank of Cisco, Texas before setting off on a wild, week-long chase with the police. Although the costume was donned by a decidedly young and lanky man, the image of the beloved Christmas hero allowed this Santa to distract the bank patrons while his bandits filed into the building undetected.
While Santa was raiding the bank’s safe and stuffing an “Idaho Potatoes” sack with $12,200 in cash and $150,000 in securities (or, when adjusted for inflation, about $182,570 in cash and $2,244,724 in securities), his bandits were holding down the scene and making sure no one escaped. Amazingly, one woman managed to sneak past the commotion, slip out of the bank’s back door and alert the Cisco police of Santa and his bad little helpers.
When the police arrived, the bank robbers used the bank employees as human shields to evade any bullets that came at them while they escaped through the alleyway. By the time the four men reached their getaway vehicle, approximately 200 shots had been fired. In the aftermath, two officers lay dying and six bystanders had sustained wounds of varying severity. The unruly gang also succeeded in taking 10-year-old Emma May Robinson and twelve-year-old Laverne Comer hostage, but had to leave one injured bandit behind to die.
Santa, who was eventually revealed to be 26-year-old Marshall Ratcliff, drove madly through thick fields of bushes, cactus, and brush while the police followed him in hot pursuit. Over the course of the chase, the three remaining robbers accumulated several hostages and injuries but were eventually captured by police exactly one week after the bank robbery.
Ratcliff was sentenced to 99 years in prison, but attempted to plead insanity and was moved from the penitentiary to the county jail in Eastland, Texas. Whilst in the throes of his insanity schtick, Ratcliff tried to escape and ended up killing a jailer. Local Texans grew angry, broke Ratcliff out of jail, and hung him themselves. In the end, the Santa-led bank robbery cost six people their lives, including three of the four robbers.
1. The Santa That Went Down in Flames
On Christmas Eve, 2008, Bruce Jeffery Pardo knocked on the door of his former in-laws’ home while dressed in a Santa suit and holding a gift-wrapped package. When an eight-year-old girl answered the door, Pardo blasted her with a semiautomatic handgun. Then, the unhinged Santa entered the Covina, Los Angeles home and began indiscriminately firing through the crowd of festive partygoers.
In a 911 call, the young girl’s mother can be heard screaming “I need someone to come over and help my daughter!” before identifying the shooter as Bruce Pardo. When Pardo finally unwrapped the “Christmas gift” that he had been holding, he revealed a homemade flamethrower. With that, Santa burned the house to the ground and fled the scene with severe burns that melted his red suit into his flesh.
Pardo drove 40 miles to Sylmar, parked his rental car a block from his brother’s house and used his shredded suit to booby trap the inside of the vehicle. If police attempted to move the suit, trip wires would ignite a fire and subsequently explode 200 rounds of ammunition. As a means of getting away, Pardo had also strapped $17,000 in cash to his body and appeared to have a flight booked for Canada. However, before he could board any plane to freedom, the murderous Santa killed himself with a single gunshot to the head.
Investigators believe that Pardo’s killing spree was spurred by a particularly contentious divorce that had come to a head just one week prior. According to divorce records, Pardo’s split from his ex-wife, Sylvia, had intensified on December 18 after Sylvia was granted a cash settlement and Pardo’s dog, Saki.
Pardo knew that Sylvia would be attending her parents’ annual holiday party on December 24, but it remains unknown just how long he had been planning his attack. According to Pardo’s friend, Steve Erwin, the vicious Santa had called him in the week leading up to the massacre and made plans to visit him for two weeks, starting on Christmas Day.
Erwin said that Pardo had a flight to Moline, Illinois and would drive from there to Erwin’s home in Iowa. Of course, Pardo never showed up. Given his alleged plane ticket to Canada, police have questioned whether Pardo had ever planned to meet up with Erwin in the first place.
In total, Pardo killed nine people. In addition to shooting Sylvia, Pardo also murdered her parents, two of her brothers and their wives, a sister, and a nephew.