John Brittain, 68, was charged with 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 on April 15, 2019. (File)

Penticton mass-murderer apologizes: ‘I tragically disrupted so many lives’

John Brittain killed four of his ex-wife’s neighbours in a mid-day rampage on April 15, 2019

John Brittain, the man who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting that killed four Penticton residents last year, took the stand as sentencing submissions concluded today (Oct. 15) offering a brief explanation of his actions and an apology to those impacted by them.

Brittain pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree and one count of second-degree murder yesterday (Oct. 14) in a Kelowna courtroom for the murders of four of his ex-wife Kathrine Brittain’s neighbours — Susan and Barry Wonch, Rudi Winter and Darlene Knippelberg, all of whom were in their 60s and 70s — on April 15, 2019.

He told the court he had no idea that day would turn into such a tragedy for three families, himself, his ex-wife and the City of Penticton.

“I tragically disrupted so many lives,” he told Justice Allison Beames between long pauses as sobs poured from the families sitting in the courtroom’s gallery.

Four work-related burnouts and several major depressions were, as Brittain described, the “basis of the catastrophe” that led to a deteriorating physical and mental health. This resulted in a final mental breakdown that saw him snap, killing the four neighbours who he said “bullied” his ex-wife.

“I reacted to images and threats that were not real.”

Brittain addressed the court to offer direct apologies to his ex-wife, the families of the victims and the emergency personnel.

Speaking directly to the families of the victims, Brittain said he was “shattered and devastated” over what he’s done.

“I have no understanding of what caused me to lose all restraint and perspective, which resulted in their untimely and tragic death,” he said. “I also apologize for the stain I have put on the name of the city of Penticton and contributing to the unnecessary anxiety of its citizens.”

Lastly, Brittain apologized to emergency responders who were the first to see the gruesome scenes he left in his trail.

“I’m sure what you saw and had to deal with that day was not what you ever wanted to see when you entered your professions.

“I see these images in my head. They will torment me for the rest of my life. It is my wish you will be healed and not further traumatized by this event.”

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 those sentences to be served consecutively, amounting to 40 years before Brittain would be eligible for parole.

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

Brittain’s defence lawyer, Paul McMurray is seeking all sentences to be served concurrently, which would see Brittain serve the minimum 25 years prior to parole eligibility. McMurray’s argued the killings, which took place in the span of 35 minutes, shouldn’t be treated as separate incidents and as such shouldn’t be sentenced consecutively. He noted that Brittain would be, at the youngest, 92 years old when he becomes eligible for parole — and having that release granted would be a whole new unlikely hurdle to jump.

McMurray argued Brittain’s guilty plea saved the exposure of several wounds being reopened and publicized.

“It would’ve laid bare a lot of personal issues,” McMurray submitted.

McMurray described Brittain as a man of education, holding an engineering degree and a project management diploma. He lived and worked across Canada and as far as Africa.

However, a psychological report provided to the court indicated those living situations may have had a detrimental effect on Brittain’s personal life contributing to his feeling of social isolation.

Attempting to provide some insight into Brittain’s mindset at the time of the killings, McMurray described Brittain’s profession as an engineer as one of problem-solving and fixing things.

“It’s fair to say that dealing with problems as an engineer, as a scientist, things are capable of being fixed,” McMurray said. “But dealing with relationships and relationships with other people, dealing with human beings who are not always subject to fixing, requires a different skillset — one that it’s fair to say, Mr. Brittain was lacking.”

McMurray suggested that Brittain was trying to solve his ex-wife’s neighbour problems, and felt that all other options besides killing them were taken off the table.

“Now of course he was wrong, there were other options,” McMurray said. “But in his state of mind, he did not see it.”

BC Supreme Court Justice Allison Beames said she’d like to give her decision today. She will be back at 3:15 p.m. when she will either deliver her sentence or schedule another time to do so.

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

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Kevin Allen of Fernie helped research and untangle the relationship between West Fernie and the City of Fernie, and is now writing a book on West Fernie. (Phil McLachlan / The Free Press)
Local historian writing book on West Fernie

Kevin Allen of Fernie is compiling his research on West Fernie into a book thanks to a grant from the RDEK

The design green-lit by the Sparwood District Council for the Centennial Square revitalization. It retains storefront parking, as desired by the business community in the square. (Image courtesy of District of Sparwood)
New Centennial Square design green-lit by Sparwood

The new design retains some storefront parking in the square

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Former University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan for ‘mishandling’ sexual assault report

Stephanie Hale did not return to campus after the student she alleges attacked her was cleared of wrongdoing

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Most Read