John Brittain has pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder in relation to the deaths of Darlene Knippelberg, Rudi Winter and Susan and Barry Wonch. (File)

John Brittain has pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder in relation to the deaths of Darlene Knippelberg, Rudi Winter and Susan and Barry Wonch. (File)

Penticton man killed ex-wife’s 4 neighbours to stop them from ‘bullying’ her

John Brittain pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder

What started as a squabble between Penticton neighbours ended in a rampage that saw four people lose their lives.

John Brittain pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder in a Kelowna courtroom on Wednesday, Oct. 14, for killing four of his ex-wife Katherine Brittain’s neighbours — Susan and Barry Wonch, Rudi Winter and Darlene Knippelberg, all of whom were in their 60s and 70s — in April 2019.

Sentencing submissions commenced immediately after Brittain made his pleas and Crown spent much of the morning explaining the circumstances behind the broad-daylight shooting.

Following their 2012 separation, Crown counsel Colin Forsyth said Brittain and his ex-wife maintained a relationship. Brittain would often visit his wife in the home they formerly occupied together on Cornwall Drive, sometimes on a daily basis. Over time, the two developed issues with Katherine’s neighbours.

Katherine would often tell her husband of her grievances with her neighbours, including a tree being cut down, smoke pouring from a chimney towards her property and said she felt ‘bullied’ by those living next door.

Over the years, those issues came to a tipping point on April 15, 2019.

Brittain spotted Winter outside his rental home that morning, which was located in downtown Penticton. Winter was helping a friend with some housework.

He loaded a gun, walked across the street and called out to Winter. As he was turning around, Brittain shot him five times — the last of which was to his head.

He then drove to Cornwall Drive, approached the garage door of the Wonch residence with another gun and knocked. Barry and Susan Wonch were inside. He shot both of them twice, Crown said.

Taking the same gun, he went to Knippelberg’s home, knocked on her door and shot her three times.

Brittain then drove to the Penticton RCMP detachment to turn himself in. He the woman working the front desk at the detachment that he was “the guy who just shot four people.”

He told police he “snapped” when he saw Winter outside his home after years of hearing his ex-wife complain about her neighbours — and realized he had the means to end it.

“I destroyed a lot of people’s lives today,” Forsyth said Brittain told an officer questioning him later that day, telling officers he did it to stop them from bothering Katherine.

Family members of the Wonches, Winter and Knippelberg took the stand on Wednesday, sharing heart-wrenching accounts of what they’ve gone through in the past 18 months.

Renate Winter told the court in a victim impact statement that her 71-year-old husband was a humble, kind and hard-working person who died a brutal and violent death.

The couple’s daughter, Tanya Steele, said she heard shots on the morning of her father’s murder but had no idea he was the target.

“He took away my rock. He took away my sense of feeling safe,” she said, sobbing.

At the end of her statement, Steele confronted Brittain directly with an accusation.

“We know (Katherine) made you do it, you should just man up and tell the truth,” she said.

Brittain interjected, “Kathy had nothing to do with this. You have no facts.”

“My dad is dead, that’s the fact,” Steele responded.

Brittain maintained that the murders were his decision alone.

“I did it, 100 per cent. She wasn’t there,” he told Mounties. “They, for reasons of their own, could not stop picking on her.”

Both first- and second-degree murder convictions carry a life sentence. A prisoner serving time for first-degree murder must wait 25 years before applying for parole and between 10 and 25 years for second-degree murder. The Crown is seeking terms before parole ineligibility to be served consecutively.

Sentencing continues Thursday.

READ MORE: Penticton quadruple murder trial moved to Kelowna

READ MORE: One year later after the tragic shooting spree in Penticton

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC Supreme CourtQuadruple murder

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Contributed - City of West Kelowna)
City of West Kelowna to consider endorsing Smith Creek project

Smith Creek neighbourhood plan proposes 900+ housing development on 154 hectares

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
15 cases of COVID-19 tied to Kelowna Francophone school outbreak

Three other schools in Kelowna are also dealing with potential exposure events

There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

City of Kelowna crews are cleaning city hall after it was vandalized overnight. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Kelowna City Hall hit by anti-pandemic vandalism

Graffiti condemning the virus appears overnight on City Hall

West Kelowna Panthers. (Contributed)
West Kelowna minor hockey team raising money to broadcast games

No spectators are currently allowed at minor hockey games in BC

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

(Brennan Phillips - Western News)
UPDATE: Flames doused for second time at fatal Penticton apartment fire

The Elm Ave. building first caught fire around 4 a.m., killing two people and displacing dozens

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Two have been taken to hospital following a vehicle crash north of Vernon on Highway 97 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Crash north of Vernon causes Highway 97 traffic delays

Emergency crews respond to two-vehicle incident near Swan Lake; occupants taken to hospital

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

(Submitted)
Penticton apartment fire claims two lives

An apartment on Elm Avenue went up in flames Tuesday morning

Most Read