Member of Penticton murder victim’s family who sought revenge avoids jail time for vandalism | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Member of Penticton murder victim’s family who sought revenge avoids jail time for vandalism

Zachary Charles Steele, 47, was given a suspended sentence and a year's probation following sentencing for a charge of mischief in Penticton court today, Dec. 4, 2019.
December 04, 2019 - 1:35 PM

A man whose father-in-law was among four Penticton residents murdered last April entered a guilty plea on a charge of mischief in Penticton court this morning.

Zachary Charles Steele, 47, was charged after a June 22 incident in which Kathy Brittain’s house was damaged by vandalism. He pleaded guilty to the mischief charge in court today, Dec. 4.

Kathy Brittain is the estranged wife of John Brittain who is accused of murdering four of Brittain’s neighbours on April 15 of this year.

Among the victims was Steele’s father-in-law, 71-year-old Rudi Winter, who lived next door to Kathy Brittain.

Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg told Penticton court today that Steele was observed throwing rocks and yelling at Brittain’s house around 11:30 p.m. on June 22, 2019.

A rock weighing around eight pounds was thrown through a two-paned window in the house, landing on the living room couch.

An apparently intoxicated Steele, who was dressed all in black, also threw a rock through another side window.

When police arrived they found two broken windows, a broken planter and light fixture, and broken lawn ornaments. A portion of eavestrough had been torn off and the mailbox ripped off the wall as well.

Steele was also observed shovelling gravel onto the roof, while shouting, “Kathy, you’re all alone, where’s John to help you now?”

Steele was also observed doing jumping jacks outside Brittain’s residence.

Wiberg said an original estimate of damage from the insurance company pegged the cost at $8,000.

He asked for a restitution order for $500 for Brittain’s insurance deductible, and an additional $1,000 for loss of her good homeowner discount.

Wiberg asked for a suspended sentence along with three years of probation for Steele, in addition to possible counselling for alcohol and anger management. He also asked for a no contact order against Kathy Brittain and a “no go” order within 500 metres of her house, calling the incident a “bad mischief situation.”

Defence lawyer James Pennington told court Steele’s family had since moved out of the neighbourhood and Steele would no longer have the need to be near the property.

He said the incident was the culmination of years of terror by Brittain.

“What the court needs to know, is prior to this incident for years prior to the murders, the neighbours surrounding the complainant lived in terror. The complainant is well known for calling several times a week to City Hall, complaining about her neighbours,” Pennington said.

He said it got to the point where neighbours were afraid to move for fear of generating another complaint.

Pennington said things came to a head on the night of June 22 when Steele and his wife were busy doing yard work, only to notice Kathy Brittain watching their every move.

They went from the backyard of the house to the front where once again Brittain was observed scrutinizing them.

They decided to pack up and leave the premises.

But Pennington told court the two were in shock over the loss of their father and father-in-law, and after ruminating on this, Mr. Steele returned to the house and took action.

“There is no lawful excuse, but under the circumstances, it’s understandable, how he took out his frustrations,” Pennington said.

He asked court for a one-year conditional discharge.

Judge Lisa Wyatt said the incident resulted in a significant amount of damage.

“It wasn’t just one rock,” she said, calling it a “difficult and tragic case.”

She called a conditional discharge contrary to the public interest, handing Steele a suspended sentence with a year of probation and no counselling conditions.

Steele will have to maintain a 500-metre perimeter from Kathy Brittain’s house as well as avoiding contact with her, except during scheduled court appearances.

He was also given a $500 restitution order.


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