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Lawsuit claims accused Penticton mass shooter conspired with ex-wife

The daughter of two of the victims of a mass shooting in Penticton earlier this year is suing the accused killer and his ex-wife.

Sarah Young, the daughter of shooting victims Susan and Barry Wonch, filed the suit in B.C. Supreme Court in June, naming John and Katherine Brittain.

The suit alleges that John Brittain “unexpectedly and without provocation” shot and killed the Wonches on April 15.

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The suit further accuses Brittain’s ex-wife of conspiring with him about the murders.

“For an unknown period of time prior to the murder … the defendant Katherine Brittain wrongfully and maliciously conspired with the defendant John Brittain to commit the murder by combining at different times for the purpose of assisting and encouraging each other in committing the murder,” alleges Young’s notice of civil claim.

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Young claims the pair’s alleged conspiracy has deprived her of the guidance and companionship of her parents, along with a loss of inheritance.

In her response to the suit, Katherine Brittain denied the conspiracy, stating she “had nothing to do with the deaths of the plaintiff’s parents and had no idea that John Brittain would kill them, if he did.”

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In his own filing, John Brittain also denied a conspiracy or that the Wonches deaths “occurred as a result of wrongful act on his part.”

Brittain, a former City of Penticton engineer, is facing three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder.

He is accused of shooting former neighbour Rudi Winter — who was pruning a tree in a neighbourhood in north Penticton — before getting into his car and driving to his old neighbourhood where his ex-wife still lived on Cornwall Drive.

He is alleged to then have shot and killed three other former neighbours: Susan and Barry Wonch and Darlene Knippelberg.

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Winter’s nephew told Global News that the Brittains and their neighbours had been engaged in an ongoing residents’ dispute for some time.

READ MORE: Penticton mass shooting neighbourhood saw dozens of bylaw complaint calls: ex-city officials

A former bylaw official with the city, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Global News that Katherine Brittain had made dozens of complaints to city hall about her neighbours, including a neighbour having a woodburning fireplace and drainage issues.

She also complained about the Wonches operating a business refurbishing furniture from their garage, the ex-official said.

WATCH: Penticton mass shooting neighbourhood saw dozens of bylaw complaint calls: ex-city officials

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Police haven’t commented on the theory of a neighbour dispute.

None of the claims has been proven in court.

Kathy Brittain’s lawyer, Stan Tessmer, said his client is “too distraught” to speak publicly about the matter.

“I can advise you that in my view this is a spurious lawsuit,” he said in an email to Global News. “The police have obviously done a thorough investigation. Complaining to an ex-husband about bad neighbours is not conspiring to kill,” he said.

Tessmer added that he is getting instructions to possibly counterclaim for damages “as a result of this false allegation and the utter devastation is has caused my client,” he said.

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“The plaintiff has no evidence whatsoever.”

Paul Johnson, the Kelowna-based lawyer representing plaintiff Sarah Young, said he can’t comment on matters currently before the courts.

Young has not responded to a request for comment.

John Brittain is due back in court for a preliminary inquiry into his criminal case on Dec. 9.

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