March 29, 2016 4:47 am
Updated: March 29, 2016 6:40 pm

Marco Muzzo: 10 years in prison for drunk driving crash that killed 3 kids, grandfather

Video Gallery: Coverage of Marco Muzzo sentenced to 10 years in prison


NEWMARKET, Ont. – A drunk driver who killed three children and their grandfather in a horrific crash north of Toronto was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday after a judge said Marco Muzzo must be held accountable for the irreversible suffering he’s caused.

Muzzo, 29, had already accrued a lengthy record of driving infractions – many of them for speeding – when he made the fateful decision to drink and drive after returning home from a trip to Miami last September, said Superior Court Justice Michelle Fuerst.

WATCH: Marco Muzzo has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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And while he has shown genuine remorse for his actions, “the high degree of Mr. Muzzo’s moral blameworthiness, combined with the enormous and far-reaching consequences of his offences, set this case apart from others,” she said.

“Notwithstanding the many positive aspects of Mr. Muzzo’s background and character… a lengthy penitentiary term is necessary,” in part to deter others from taking the same dangerous risk, Fuerst added.

Muzzo glanced quickly at his family in the front row of the courtroom in Newmarket, Ont., as he was led away in handcuffs. His mother wiped her eyes while the children’s mother, Jennifer Neville-Lake, sobbed quietly in a corner as others gathered around her.

LIVE BLOG: Recap of sentencing for Marco Muzzo

Nine-year-old Daniel Neville-Lake, his five-year-old brother Harrison, their two-year-old sister Milly and the children’s 65-year-old grandfather, Gary Neville, died after the van they were in was hit by a speeding SUV driven by Muzzo.

Outside the courthouse following the sentencing, Jennifer Neville-Lake said her family is a tragic reminder of the consequences of drinking and driving.

“Please, keep in mind: when you choose to drink and drive, you’re hurting other families, you’re killing someone else’s babies, like mine were killed,” she said.

“All of mine were killed on a beautiful Sunday afternoon just after 4 o’clock. Please don’t do that.”

Marco Muzzo: Read the full reasons for sentence here

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 10 to 12 years behind bars and a ban on driving for eight to 10, but the defence had argued an eight-year sentence would be enough.

In her impact statement last month, Jennifer Neville-Lake, whose family was decimated in the crash, said Muzzo’s actions have shattered her world.

“I would not wish this horror I am living on anyone but you,” she said. “You deserve to know exactly what it feels like to have every single child you created meet someone like you.”

READ MORE: Marco Muzzo apologizes for killing 3 children and grandfather

She recalled holding Milly and Harrison close in their last moments and showed a photo of the two children holding hands in their hospital beds.

“That’s Milly and Harry. They joined their hands together. They pushed their beds together; I decided I had to turn the machines off so Milly’s heart wouldn’t explode. I couldn’t pick which baby to turn off the machines first,” she said, her voice cracking.

“Edward and I crawled into bed with them,” she said. “We put our hands on top of theirs so that … just like we were with them when they were born, we were with both of them when they died. They died hugged by us in bed surrounded by all the family and friends that sang to them ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ as we turned off the machines.”

Muzzo, who had pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two of impaired driving causing bodily harm, will serve nine years and four months after credit for time served. He could be eligible for parole after a third of his sentence, and for day parole six months before then.

WATCH: Muzzo, Neville-Lake families arrive in court

He also faces a 12-year driving ban, which will take effect on his release from custody.

No matter the length of sentence, Muzzo will eventually be released and go back to normal life, but the victims’ family won’t, Fuerst said.

The Neville-Lakes “will continue to serve the form of life sentence that Mr. Muzzo inflicted on them by his decision to drink and drive,” Fuerst said.

READ MORE: Marco Muzzo got the sentence he deserved, MADD CEO says

“Any loss of life caused by an impaired driver is tragic. In this case, however, the enormous harm caused by Mr. Muzzo is extraordinary,” she said in delivering the sentence. “In one fell swoop, he decimated an entire generation of the Neville-Lake family, its legacy and its future.”

That he had accumulated 10 speeding convictions in previous years “indicates an irresponsible attitude towards the privilege of driving,” she said, noting he was speeding at the time of the crash.

The persistence of impaired driving in the region, meanwhile, “underscores the need to impose a sentence that denounces and deters drinking and driving,” she said.

“For as long as Mr. Muzzo has been alive, courts have warned about the consequences of impaired driving. Yet the message escaped him,” she said. “It is important that it does not escape others.”

Muzzo’s sentence, she said, is roughly the same length as her eldest son Daniel’s life.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 10 to 12 years behind bars and a ban on driving for eight to 10, but the defence had argued an eight-year sentence would be enough.

For some, Muzzo’s sentence was too lenient.

“It was such a horrific case that we really thought there might be a higher sentence handed down,” said Anne Leonard, executive director of Arrive Alive Drive Sober, a charity which works to eliminate impaired driving. “This would be the time to see a life in prison sentence.”

READ MORE: Mother of 3 kids killed by Marco Muzzo shows photos of their final moments

Leonard said she nonetheless hoped the national attention on the case would encourage people to really think twice before driving impaired. She also hoped it would spur observers to intervene in suspected cases of impaired driving to prevent crashes.

Andrew Murie, the CEO for Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, said Muzzo’s sentence was still longer than what most people would have received in similar cases.

“It shows that the bar has shifted, which is really good,” he said. “But it’s a long way from the maximum penalty, which is life. That has been reserved for chronic reoffenders. A lot of Canadian penalties don’t take into consideration the number of deaths, the number of injuries you cause.”

Murie added that for families who’ve lost loved ones in impaired driving crashes, a sentence of 10 years would typically be seen as not enough.

WATCH: Angry Brian Greenspan decries what he calls ‘misinformation’ regarding Marco Muzzo verdict

In her impact statement last month, Neville-Lake said Muzzo’s actions have shattered her world.

“I would not wish this horror I am living on anyone but you,” she said at the time. “You deserve to know exactly what it feels like to have every single child you created meet someone like you.”

Muzzo apologized to the family last month, saying he was “tortured by the grief and the pain” that he had caused.

“I will forever be haunted by the reality of what I have done. I am truly sorry,” he said.

His lawyer Brian Greenspan said Tuesday that his client “took full responsibility for his actions, took full accountability for his actions and today he fully accepts the sentence that was imposed by Justice Fuerst.”

Muzzo’s trial heard he had returned from his bachelor party in Florida on a private plane and picked up his car at Pearson International Airport prior to the Sept. 27, 2015, crash.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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