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

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Chris Paulson of Burns Lake took a quick selfie with a lynx over the weekend of Feb. 20-22, 2021, after the wild cat was found eating some of his chickens. (Chris Paulson/Facebook)
VIDEO: Burns Lake man grabs lynx by scruff after chickens attacked

‘Let’s see the damage you did, buddy,’ Chris Paulson says to the wild cat

Northern Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Brucejack mine, 65 km north of Stewart on Feb. 11, 2021. (Pretivm Photo)
Northern Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Brucejack Mine, 65 kilometres north of Stewart on Feb. 11, 2021. (Pretivm Photo)
Northern Health reports 20 more COVID-19 cases in outbreak at Brucejack Mine

So far, 42 people have tested positive, nine cases are active and self-isolating onsite

Fisheries and Oceans Canada released it's 2021 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan Feb. 19. (File photo)
Northern herring opportunities kept to a minimum

2021 management plan caps Prince Rupert fishery at 5 per cent

A collaborative genomic research project is underway to map the movements of 118 Northwest sockeye populations to better inform management decisions on at-risk stocks. (File photo)
Genomic study tracks 118 Northwest B.C. sockeye populations

Development of new tool will be used to help harvesters target healthy groups

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Migrant farm workers transplant jalapeno sprouts from trucks into the tilted soil at a farm. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)
‘They’re afraid’: Coalition sounds alarm over COVID vaccines for B.C.’s migrant workers

Though health ministry says anyone can get vaccinated, critics say barriers are keeping migrants from their dose

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing escalates to stabbing in Nanaimo

Victim, struck with coffee cup and then stabbed, suffers minor injuries; suspect arrested

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

Most Read