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

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health records third COVID-19 death

A new community outbreak was reported at Okanagan Men’s Centre in Lake Country

NAV CANDA is considering closing its station at the West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline
Nav Canada considering closing station at West Kootenay Regional Airport

The organization is conducting a service review at Castlegar’s airport

Internet service in the West Kootenay is improving thanks to provincial government grants. File photo
COVID-19 support program brings faster internet to rural communities

The province has provided grants to local internet providers

First responders at a crash scene near Rossland on Thursday, Oct. 22. Photo: Trail RCMP
First snow in West Kootenay causes vehicle collisions

The Trail and Greater District RCMP’s weekly brief contains details on collisions

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

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers, staff by parents must stop: Chilliwack soccer club

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

Most Read