John Brittain, Penticton man accused in 4 deaths to plead guilty

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John Brittain, Penticton man accused in 4 deaths to plead guilty
John Brittain, Penticton man accused in 4 deaths to plead guilty

The lawyer for a man accused in a shooting that left four people dead in Penticton, B.C., says his client plans to plead guilty next week.

John Brittain, 69, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder after the shooting in April last year.

Rudi Winter, Barry and Susan Wonch and Darlene Knippelberg were all killed.

Defence lawyer Paul McMurray told a B.C. Supreme Court judge hearing the case in Kelowna on Monday that he’s expecting Brittain to plead guilty to all four indictments in court on Oct. 14.

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Brittain was a former city employee whom Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki described after the shooting as a gentleman who did his job well.

Police said shortly after the shooting that the victims were in their 60s and 70s and a motive hadn’t been determined.

RCMP said the shootings were targeted and the victims knew one another. All four victims were neighbours of Brittain’s ex-wife.

The first shooting occurred on Heales Avenue, then the suspect drove about five kilometres to a second location on Cornwall Drive where the other three people were attacked, police said.

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The unarmed suspect walked into the RCMP detachment in Penticton about an hour after the shootings were first reported and surrendered, they said.

Crown and defence lawyers had gathered Monday in court for what was originally scheduled as the first day of a four-week trial and became a pre-trial conference instead.

Justice Alison Beames asked McMurray if his client planned to plead guilty to all four counts.

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“I can confirm that my instructions are that Mr. Brittain is intending to enter guilty pleas on the indictment,” McMurray said.

A two-day sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Brittain. He did not appear in court Monday but is scheduled to appear Oct. 14.

First-degree murder carries with it a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Crown counsel Colin Forsyth declined outside court Monday to say if he’ll seek to have the sentences run consecutively.

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