The grieving mother who lost all three of her children and her father when a drunk driver from one of Canada’s wealthiest families blew through a stop sign and T-boned the family’s minivan says she may now be able to finally feel relief after hearing the man plead guilty Thursday to the crash.
Marco Muzzo, of King Township, Ont., nodded and murmured in agreement when asked if he understood the consequences of his plea.
The 29-year-old was released on $1-million bail with conditions amounting to house arrest, as well as a ban on drinking, operating a vehicle, or coming within 100 metres of the victims’ family.
Muzzo quickly left the Newmarket, Ont., courthouse in a waiting vehicle. Sentencing is set for Feb. 23.
Jennifer Neville-Lake said seeing Muzzo stand in court and admit guilt erased her fear of him.
“I was always afraid to call him what he is — a drunk driver. But now I can say that without having to be afraid anymore. A drunk driver killed my family, and he admitted to it,” she told reporters.
“Maybe after I finish with my shaky crying bouts I will be able to feel some relief from that.”
Fighting back tears and clutching photos of her son Daniel — one taken two days before he was killed in the crash — Neville-Lake said it’s too early for her to consider forgiving Muzzo.
“My religion teaches me that at some point, perhaps, if I live that long. But I guess the question is, is this survivable for us to get to that point?”
“There is absolutely nothing he could say,” she said. “They can’t be brought back.”
It would have been Daniel’s tenth birthday Wednesday, Neville-Lake said.
“Instead, we as his parents celebrated — if you can call it that — at his grave. And today we had to listen to the person who killed him with his car say ‘guilty’ in his death.”
Muzzo’s lawyer Brian Greenspan denied Muzzo’s wealth played a role in his receiving bail with sentencing just over two weeks away.
“This was a routine matter. This was not a special interest matter,” he said outside court.
“Mr. Muzzo knew that this day would come,” Greenspan said.
“He has always viewed himself as accountable and remorseful for what occurred. He has now accepted that responsibility formally and will now be sentenced for it.”
Muzzo faced 18 charges of impaired-driving and other offences following the deadly crash in Vaughan, north of Toronto, on Sept. 27. He pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
The remaining 12 charges are to be withdrawn at sentencing, Greenspan said.
Court heard Muzzo had two breathalyzer test results of more than twice the legal limit following the crash.
Police also found him smelling of alcohol, with glossy eyes and difficulty holding his balance, and said he urinated on himself. Court heard that it was only after Muzzo arrived at the police station that he learned the four had died.
Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, his brother Harrison, 5, their sister Milly, 2, and the kids’ 65-year-old grandfather died after the minivan they were in — which was carrying three generations of the Neville-Lake family — was hit by Muzzo’s Jeep SUV at 85 kilometres an hour.
The children’s grandmother and great-grandmother were also in the minivan and survived the crash, but suffered serious injuries.
Muzzo had returned from his bachelor party trip to Miami on his family company’s jet last September, landing at Toronto’s Pearson airport around 3:15 p.m., according to an agreed statement of fact read in court.
He picked up his Jeep from the airport parking lot and drove off, later going through the stop sign and slamming into the driver’s side of the Neville-Lake minivan, court heard.
The Muzzo family, one of Canada’s richest, released a statement after their son’s arrest saying they were “greatly saddened” by the tragedy, and expressed their “deepest sympathy” to the Neville-Lake family.
The Muzzos own the drywall company Marel Contractors and is worth nearly $1.8 billion, according to Canadian Business magazine.
Before the crash, Muzzo had seven non-criminal offences, including a conviction for driving with a hand-held device, according to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.
With files from David Shum, Cindy Pom and The Canadian Press