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

Interior Health has declared the Cariboo Chilcotin a community cluster. (Angie Mindus photo)
Interior Health declares Cariboo Chilcotin region a COVID-19 cluster, 215 cases since Jan. 1

Most cases are related to transmission at social events and gatherings in Williams Lake

Aside from being a retired librarian and member of the Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy, Lil Mack advocates or literacy with her own little book box out front at her Ninth Avenue North home. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Our Hometown: Advocating for literacy

Lil Mack has been with Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy since its inception

The City of Williams Lake is awaiting the arrival of seven terrain park features typically found at ski hills to create more winter recreational opportunities in Boitanio Park. (Arena Snowparks Instagram)
City shows cool side with winter, Boitanio rail park

“We’re just waiting for their arrival and a little more snow,” Atkinson said.

Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars provides a community COVID-19 update from his home Wednesday, Jan. 20. (Williams Lake First Nation Facebook image)
WLFN chief reports 11 members fully recovered from COVID-19

23 active cases remains, says Chief Willie Sellars

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

(File)
Man allegedly bites Vancouver cop during arrest for outstanding warrant

The officer was treated in hospital for the bite wounds

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

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Supreme Court quashes review of B.C. conservation officer who refused to euthanize bears

Bryce Casavant was dismissed from his job for choosing not to shoot the cubs in 2015

(File Photo)
Interior Health says COVID positivity rates in Fernie area actually 10-12%

IH say the rates are not as high as previously claimed by the region’s top doctor

Francina Mettes and Thomas Schouten with the 200-page document they submitted in December of 2018. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Dutch man, 94, facing unwanted trip home can stay in B.C. with wife of 45 years

Immigration offices cuts red tape so couple of 45 years can stay together in Victoria area

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier, health officials to discuss next steps in COVID immunization plan

Nearly 31,000 doses of vaccine the province expected by Jan. 29 could be curtailed due to production issues

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Most Read