Toronto

Parole denied for drunk driver Marco Muzzo who killed 3 siblings, grandfather

Marco Muzzo, the drunk driver convicted of killing three children and their grandfather in a 2015 crash north of Toronto, has been denied day parole.

Muzzo tells parole board that he feels 'terrible' about his role in deadly collision

Marco Muzzo told a parole board hearing he feels 'terrible' about driving drunk and causing a crash that left three children and their grandfather dead. It was not enough to sway the board's decision. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Marco Muzzo, the drunk driver convicted of killing three children and their grandfather in a 2015 crash north of Toronto, was denied day parole on Wednesday.

At an emotional parole board hearing in Gravenhurst, Ont., where Muzzo is being held at the Beaver Creek minimum-security prison, the now 32-year-old said he feels "terrible" about the crash.

The parole board panel swiftly denied his first appeal for parole, determining within just 20 minutes that they "don't believe [Muzzo's] risk is manageable."  

Parole board member Kevin Corcoran told a packed hearing room: "We don't question your remorse. It's obvious that this is a very difficult thing for you to deal with."

I don't get parole from this life sentence of misery and despair.- Jennifer Neville-Lake, mother of children killed in crash

Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years behind bars in March 2016 after pleading guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death for killing the Neville-Lake children — Daniel, 9, Harrison, 5, and Milly, 2, — and their grandfather, Gary Neville, 65, in a crash in Vaughan four months earlier.

"I know what I'm experiencing is a drop in a pond compared to what they are experiencing," Muzzo told the panel while fighting back tears.  "I have a hard time forgiving myself. I would never wish it as it happened."

Muzzo denies alcohol abuse

Muzzo has repeatedly denied he had issues with alcohol abuse despite pleading guilty to being impaired during the September 2015 crash.

He was found to have a blood-alcohol level of almost three times the legal limit in Ontario, according to an agreed statement of facts in the case.

Corcoran highlighted that as a serious issue.

"The difficulty I have is when you look at the crash in 2015 that killed four people, alcohol was definitely a considerable factor," he said in his decision.

"You sabotaged your progress you may have otherwise made by underestimating your problem with substance misuse, if not abuse."

Marco Muzzo, centre, stared straight ahead during his parole hearing Wednesday, only moving to wipe tears from his face as officials detailed the moments after the deadly crash. (Pam Davies/CBC)

In the three-hour hearing, Corcoran contended that Muzzo overlooked his history with drinking alcohol when he chose to conceal a heated 2012 incident in which he was charged for public intoxication outside a Vaughan strip club. The charges were later dropped.

Muzzo and a friend started a fight with the bouncers and threatened their lives after being denied entry. Muzzo was arrested, Corcoran told the board, and continued to be "belligerent," and tried to kick out the windows while in the back of a police cruiser.

"That's pretty extreme," Corcoran said, pointing out that interaction speaks to a history.

'I'm not an addict'

Earlier Muzzo had told the panel that he opted to stop participating in a 12-step program through Alcoholics Anonymous while in prison and hasn't sought professional help, aside from receiving spiritual counselling at the chapel. 

"I firmly believe I'm not an addict," Muzzo said. 

Lynn Dubciak, his parole officer, told the panel that Muzzo didn't qualify for substance abuse treatment in prison because he didn't meet the requirements. 

Muzzo's lawyer, Michael Mandelcorn, had proposed conditions, beyond a 12-year driving ban, be placed on his parole. This included refraining from drinking alcohol or visiting a licensed establishment. 

'I should have known better'

Muzzo, then 29, had just returned home from his weekend-long bachelor party in Miami. He admitted to having four alcoholic beverages on a private jet after a night of partying. "I felt fine, but there was that slight grogginess," he said.

He picked up his Jeep Grand Cherokee from the parking lot at Toronto's Pearson International Airport and drove off, taking rural sideroads to his home in Vaughan. 

"I don't believe my decision-making at that point was the best of its ability," he told the panel Wednesday. "I should have known better, but I took a chance."

The Neville-Lake children — Daniel, 9, Harrison, 5, and Milly, 2, — and their grandfather, Gary Neville, 65, died in the crash. (York Regional Police)

Still, Muzzo maintained alcohol wasn't the only reason a witness at the crash scene told police he was glassy-eyed. 

He claimed the "shock" of seeing what he did to members of the Neville-Lake family affected him.  

"It's something I can't forget," Muzzo said. He has been diagnosed with moderate post-traumatic stress disorder.

'Life sentence of misery and despair'

Jennifer Neville-Lake, the mother of the children Muzzo killed, opened the hearing with a gut-wrenching victim impact statement, saying: "I don't get parole from this life sentence of misery and despair."

Neville-Lake had urged supporters on Facebook to write letters to the parole board, stating how her family's story had affected them. 

Jennifer Neville-Lake addressed reporters after the parole hearing as a supporter held a photo of her three children and father she says was placed on their coffins. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Corcoran said people had sent in a "significant" number of letters and more than 13,000 had signed an online petition, which were factored into the decision to deny parole. 

"I've done a horrible thing. I shattered a family and I can see why people are angry," Muzzo said Wednesday. 

Although Neville-Lake told reporters after the hearing she was a "bit surprised" by the outcome, she said it won't bring her family back. 

"It doesn't change a thing for me. I still go home to an empty house and stare at urns," she said. 

"There's no win. There's no victory."

Muzzo can appeal today's decision within two months. He can reapply for day parole and full parole in one year, according to the Correctional Service of Canada. The National Parole Board doesn't have to review his request for another five years because he was responsible for the deaths of four people. 

"I don't want any more victims. I don't want any more tragedy," Muzzo told the board. 

The Muzzo family, which owns the drywall company Marel Contractors, is one of Canada's wealthiest, worth more than $1.8 billion, according to a Canadian Business magazine estimate in 2017.

Muzzo was listed as a director of Marel Contractors, which has projects across Toronto, including ones in Liberty Village and the Adelaide Hotel, formerly named the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

About the Author

Amara McLaughlin

Online reporter, CBC Toronto

Amara McLaughlin is a digital journalist at CBC Toronto. Originally from Alberta, she began her journalism career in Calgary but now calls Toronto home. She has also worked in Jerusalem, Washington, D.C. and Hamilton, Ont. amara.mclaughlin@cbc.ca