In trying to paint himself as a responsible drinker who made a deadly mistake, a drunk driver who killed three children and their grandfather revealed a lack of insight into his drinking habits and the risk they pose to others, the Parole Board of Canada said Tuesday.
In a document laying out its reasons for denying Marco Muzzo day and full parole earlier this month, the board said the 32-year-old’s reluctance to acknowledge a history of binge drinking and his admission that he does not know what contributed to his alcohol misuse raised red flags.
“You have maintained from the very outset that you are not addicted to alcohol and while this may be true, your continued rigidity and lack of insight as to what that definition may mean has prevented you from recognizing that an actual problem exists,” the board wrote.
“During the hearing, for the first time since you were arrested, you outlined a significant history of binge drinking and this, coupled with your lack of understanding on the issue of impairment, leads the board to conclude your risk remains undue.”
Muzzo pleaded guilty in 2016 to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two of impaired driving causing bodily harm and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The collision in Vaughan, Ont., claimed the lives of 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. The children’s grandmother and great-grandmother were also seriously injured.
The case continues to capture widespread attention, with thousands signing a petition to oppose Muzzo’s potential release.
WATCH: Neville-Lake tragedy reminder of dangers of drinking and driving
Muzzo’s parole hearing in early November took place at the Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst, Ont., where he is held as a minimum security offender. He has a two-month window to appeal the ruling or he must wait a year to reapply for parole.
At the hearing, the board pressed Muzzo on an incident that took place in 2012, three years before the fatal crash, but that did not come to light during his court proceedings. Nor was it brought to the attention of his case management team until weeks before the hearing.
In that incident, Muzzo and a friend became belligerent and threatening after being barred from a strip club, then tried to kick out the windows of a police cruiser after his arrest. The parole board heard he was charged with public intoxication and held until he sobered up.
While Muzzo initially said he had forgotten the incident, in fact, he was “hoping that the incident would never be discussed,” the board wrote in its decision.
“It would seem you were trying to trying to present yourself as a modest and responsible drinker who had simply made a terrible mistake on the day of the fatal collision,” it said.
“In the board’s view, you intentionally failed to disclose key information as you were hoping to paint yourself in a better light. In reality, you were simply impeding the progress you might have otherwise made.”
WATCH: ‘It doesn’t change a thing’ Mother of children killed by convicted drunk driver Muzzo reacts to decision in parole hearing
The crash took place in September 2015 after Muzzo returned from a trip to Florida for his bachelor party. His group had travelled on a private plane and Muzzo said at the hearing he had up to four drinks during the flight and had been drinking until 3 a.m. the night before.
He picked up his car at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and drove through a stop sign while speeding, T-boning the minivan carrying the Neville-Lake family, his court case heard.
Muzzo initially insisted during the hearing that he did not feel impaired at the time but later acknowledged that he should have known better. The board said in its decision he still did not appear to recognize how drunk he was.
“While you now accept you were impaired at the time of the collision, you continue to minimize the severity by indicating that many of your behaviours and responses were the result of shock as much as they were due to alcohol consumption,” it wrote.
The Neville-Lake family has said it questions Muzzo’s remorse in light of his statements and the fact that he sought parole at the first opportunity.