The son-in-law of one of the people allegedly murdered by John Brittain earlier this year in Penticton was sentenced to probation Wednesday for vandalizing the home of Brittain’s estranged wife.
Zachary Charles Steele, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of mischief and was ordered to serve one year of probation, conditions of which include having no contact with Kathy Brittain and staying 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.
Steele is married to the daughter of Rudi Winter, who lived next door to Kathy Brittain on Cornwall Drive and was one of four people allegedly shot by John Brittain on April 15.
Court heard Steele and his wife were doing yard work outside the Winter residence on June 22 when they noticed Kathy Brittain watching their every move. Fed up, the couple packed up their equipment and went inside the house.
Later that evening, however, Kathy Brittain called the RCMP to report Steele had tossed a 3.5-kilogram rock through her front window and a smaller rock through another window, plus damaged planters, lawn ornaments, a mailbox and some eavestrough.
She told police Steele had also shovelled gravel onto her roof and said, “Kathy, you’re all alone. Where’s John to help you now?”
“It would have been a terrorizing situation for the complainant inside her home seeing this happening,” said Crown counsel Neil Wiberg, who suggested a suspended sentence of three years’ probation.
Pennington countered that it was Kathy Brittain’s neighbours who had in fact been terrorized for years by her calling City Hall on a regular basis to complain about them.
Steele, he continued, finally snapped.
“He had a few too many beers and it finally got to him,” said Pennington, who asked for a conditional discharge, which would have left his client without a criminal record.
Judge Lisa Wyatt said she sympathized with Steele having suffered the “traumatizing and brutal loss” of his father-in-law, but couldn’t see her way to a conditional discharge.
“This type of retaliatory behaviour cannot be condoned,” said Wyatt.
Steele, who declined to speak when given a chance to address the court, was also ordered to pay $500 restitution representing Kathy Brittain’s insurance deductible.
John Brittain is behind bars awaiting a preliminary inquiry in January that will set the stage for his eventual trial. He has been in custody since turning himself in at the Penticton RCMP detachment on the day of the shootings, which claimed the lives of three more of Kathy Brittain’s neighbours.
Both of the Brittains have also been named in a civil lawsuit that alleges Kathy conspired with John to commit murder.