October 28th, 2020

B.C. man pleads guilty, says he killed four people who picked on his ex-wife

By The Canadian Press on October 14, 2020.

John Brittain is escorted from the RCMP detachment in Penticton, B.C., Tuesday, April 16, 2019, in a still image made from video footage. Brittain, accused in a shooting that left four people dead in Penticton, B.C., is expected to plead guilty today in court. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Amy Smart

KELOWNA, B.C. – A man has pleaded guilty to four murders last year in Penticton, B.C., telling a judge he intended to kill three of them and knew his actions would likely cause the death of another person.

John Brittain repeated “guilty” four times in B.C. Supreme Court when asked how he pleaded to three charges of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder.

The court heard the 69-year-old man killed Rudi Winter, Barry and Susan Wonch, and Darlene Knippelberg on April 15, 2019, shooting each of them multiple times.

He then drove to the RCMP detachment and turned himself in.

Reading from a transcript with a police interviewer, Crown attorney Colin Forsyth said Brittain explained that the victims, who were all neighbours, had been harassing his ex-wife for years.

He said Katherine Brittain was not aware of his intentions.

“There didn’t appear to be a better way,” Brittain told the interviewer.

“I did it, 100 per cent. She wasn’t there.”

The court heard Brittain approached Winter, the first victim, as he was standing by his vehicle on the street, and called out to him. Before Winter could turn around, Brittain started shooting, the last time as the man lay on his back, facing him, Forsyth told court.

He then drove to a bank, walked to the ATM and stood behind another person in line and withdrew $200, Forsyth said.

From there, Brittain drove to the home of Barry and Susan Wonch and shot them in their garage, loading a live round between each shot, he said.

Brittain calmly told a motorist who slowed down and saw a body in the garage to keep going.

“Move on, police will take care of it,” the witness, who called 911, told police, Forsyth said.

Brittain then walked to Knippelberg’s home, knocked on her door and shot her twice.

Forsyth said police were aware of three victims when Brittain turned himself in and that he told them of a fourth victim.

A two-day sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Brittain, who is a former employee of the City of Penticton’s engineering department.

– By Camille Bains in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2020.

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