This is part of my ongoing series on Canadian Mass Murders.
Update #1: A judge approved John Brittain’s motion to move his trial to Kelowna on May 14, 2020. On May 22nd he will be back in court to schedule a date for that trial.
Update #2: BC Prosecution Service spokesman Dan McLaughlin announced Brittain’s trial will begin October 5, 2020 in Kelowna. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for September 17th. The trial is expected to last four weeks.
At 10:30am on April 15, 2019, the day after Gordon Parmenter was murdered at the Salmon Arm Church of Christ, 68-year-old John Brittain allegedly shot and killed Rudi Winter outside his Penticton home, then drove to the homes of Darlene Knippelberg and Susan and Barry Wonch and killed them too.
The victims are all neighbours of Brittain’s ex-wife Katherine Brittain, who news reports say was in a protracted dispute with Knippelberg and the Wonchs.
“We’re still trying to find the motive for this whole incident, so that’s part of the ongoing investigation. Indications right now are that all four were targeted,” said Superintendent Ted De Jager, commander of South Okanagan-Similkameen RCMP.
At 11:30 a.m., Brittain, a retired City of Penticton civil engineer, turned himself in at the Penticton RCMP detachment. He now faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder.
Brittain is currently being held at the Okanagan Correctional Centre until his trial.
Preliminary Inquiry Waived, Trial Delayed
On Monday, December 9, 2019, Crown and defence lawyers were in court to schedule a preliminary inquiry but Paul McMurray, Brittain’s lawyer, said his client waived his right to a preliminary inquiry and elected for a trial by judge and jury.
A no-contact order between John Brittain and his ex-wife Katherine Brittain was renewed as well.
Brittain’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 20th in the hopes a trial date can be set.
A Quiet and Unassuming Man
“John is a quiet, unassuming kind of person,” Dave Folstad, Sr. told CTV News. “Easy to talk to, friendly – to just knock on the door and he’d come for a walk with me. He’s a warm, respectable person and I’ve never seen him raise his voice. He’s not the kind of person who you would expect to have any enemies.”
NOTE: This article will be updated as new events unfold in this case.
SIDE-NOTE: Zachary Charles Steele
Zachary Charles Steele, the son-in-law of murder victim Rudi Winter, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation after he threw a rock through the window of the home of John Brittain’s estranged ex-wife. On top of a one-year probation order, Steele is to have no contact with Katherine Brittain and must stay at least 500 metres from her home.
“There’s no lawful excuse for what he did, but, in the circumstances, I would submit, it’s understandable how he took out his frustrations,” said defence counsel James Pennington.