Vigil for victims fills park

The community filled Penticton’s Gyro Park Wednesday night to pull together for the victims of Monday’s quadruple homicide.

The tragic shootings have brought an unprecedented level of grief upon the city. But through the mourning, the community’s resilience has been a bright spot.

“I said on Monday that it was a dark day for Penticton, but there is also brightness in a community that can stand behind the victims and the families of those victims,” RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager told the crowd.

The vigil Wednesday saw a series of brief speeches, followed by a candlelight moment of silence. It was organized by the Chamber of Commerce and the Ooknakane Friendship Centre.

“I’m very proud of the community, as I’ve never been in 63 years that I’ve lived here,” Mayor John Vassilaki said immediately prior to the vigil. “I’ve never seen this community get together as well as they have.”

During his remarks to the crowd, MLA Dan Ashton said Penticton “is a place where you never hear about these type of things. You hear about them elsewhere in the world.”

“But when they do occur, and they have occurred here in Penticton, Penticton is infamous for rallying behind not only the community but those people affected,” Ashton added.

The victims of the shootings have now been identified as Barry and Susan Wonch, Rudi Winter and Darlene Knippelberg.

Rudi Winter’s nephew, Jeff Schwarz, described him earlier Wednesday as the kind of guy who wouldn't have liked the attention.

"Rudi wouldn't hurt a fly. He's the most calm, peaceful guy you'd ever meet. If there was a confrontation, he wouldn't address it," he said, adding that Winter "pretty much" raised him.

"I don't know the other victims but I do know Rudi and this guy had a heart of gold."

The Wonches moved to Penticton from Osoyoos in recent years, neighbour Wally Murphy told the Canadian Press.

"They were probably the best neighbours we ever had," said Murphy, adding he knew Barry for 14 years.

"I knew where the tools were in his garage and he knew where the tools were in mine."

John Maxwell lived across the street from the Wonches in Osoyoos before they moved to Penticton.

He said Susan was a wonderful cook and the couple liked to organize neighbourhood parties.

"They were both the nicest people you could ever, ever ask to be with. When we went over, they really made you feel like somebody," he said.

The accused, John Brittain, turned himself into police immediately after the shooting and has been charged with four counts of murder. He appears in court next on May 8.

with files from the Canadian Press

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