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

Vernon Search and Rescue, with help from the Air Rescue One helicopter out of Wildcat Helicopters in Kelowna, and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue, were able to transport an injured snowmobiler to Vernon Regional Airport, where he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital with a serious, painful back injury. (Facebook photo)
Okanagan helicopter rescue teams called to retrieve injured sledder at Greystokes

Vernon and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue help load injured man into waiting helicopter

Kerri and Kevin Black are highlighted for their volunteer work with the Carr's Landing Community and Recreation Association. (Contributed)
Lake Country couple’s passion to make a difference

Spotlight on Carr’s Landing Community and Recreation Association volunteers

Pink Shirt Day’s anti-bullying messaging on Feb. 24 should be understood every day of the year. (Contributed)
COLUMN: Millennial’s guide to online trolls, bullies

Messages of Pink Shirt Day should be front of mind all year long, especially online

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears shoes designed in her honour, as she views her image at the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on July 3, 2020. (Darryl Dyck - The Canadian Press)
Celebrating Vernon women in leadership this International Women’s Day

Pandemic highlights women excelling in critical response roles

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Wills Hodgkinson, 10, and his mom Neeley Brimer get ready to battle round three of cancer. The community of Penticton has his back. (Submitted)
Community raises $21K to help Penticton boy battle third round of cancer

Okanoggin Barbers held the fundraiser on Saturday for 10-year-old Wills Hodgkinson

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
UPDATE: 70-year-old man killed in workplace accident at Baldy Mountain

The mountain closed on Saturday but has partially re-opened today (Sunday)

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Chase RCMP held two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight in their detachment’s cells on Feb. 6. (File Photo)
Chase RCMP hold two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight

The two separate incidents took place less than an hour apart.

Kamloops Fire Rescue battled a landfill fire which belched toxic smoke into the air on Feb. 27. (City of Kamloops Photo)
Fire at Kamloops landfill sends thick black smoke into the air

Firefighters made slow progress on the fire throughout the morning.

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read