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

The French Creek Pollution Control Centre. (PQB News file photo)
RDN targets grants for major projects in Nanoose Bay, French Creek and Whiskey Creek

Official says projects have a strong chance to be approved for cash

The regional fire training building project is now in use by fire departments in District 69. (Submitted photo)
Parksville Qualicum Beach area has new regional training building for firefighters

Project a collaboration involving multiple fire departments

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

Fort St. John councillor Trevor Bolin (B.C. Conservative Party)
BC Conservatives leader fights back after BC Liberals leak 2018 workplace harassment case

Sexual harassment case was connected to employee being terminated, WorkSafeBC found

The BC Ferries vessel the Queen of Oak Bay. (News Bulletin file photo)
‘Buy a boat,’ Horgan advises anti-maskers on BC Ferries

NDP leader John Horgan talks COVID-19 misinformation

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

The BC Ferries vessel the Queen of Alberni. (News Bulletin file photo)
UPDATE: More sailings cancelled after ferry breaks down

Queen of Alberni out of commission, BC Ferries revises schedules

The BC Ferries vessel the Queen of Oak Bay arrives at Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Anti-mask protesters cause disturbance on ferry at Horseshoe Bay

Queen of Oak Bay delayed by about 45 minutes Saturday morning

In this photo illustration, a provincial election mail-in ballot sealed in an Elections B.C. return envelope is seen before being deposited in a Canada Post mailbox, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. The final result of British Columbia’s provincial election won’t be known for at least two weeks because more than 700-thousand mail-in ballots have to be counted by hand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s snap election means 700k ballots will be counted manually, delaying results

Elections BC spokesman said employees in 87 electoral districts will count mail-in ballots one by one

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam takes part during a press conference during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. As parts of Canada face a new round of COVID-19-related restrictions, Canada’s chief public health officer is urging Canadians to continue making a “collective effort” to tackle the pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Chief public health officer calls for continued ‘collective effort’ against COVID-19

Canada continues to climb toward the 200,000 mark for COVID-19 cases

Jordan Naterer, 25, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. He planned a hike in the Manning Park area, and has not been seen since. Photo Facebook.
Family devastated as search for missing Manning Park hiker suspended

‘It was an extremely difficult meeting with the parents when we had to tell them.’

Most Read