The drunk driver who killed three children and their grandfather in a crash north of Toronto in September 2015 could be out on parole this spring, according to the victims’ family.
“We were notified late last year that an application had been made, as we are registered victims,” said Jennifer Neville-Lake, the mother who lost her children and father in the collision.
Marco Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2016 after pleading guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
In 2015, Muzzo had just returned from his bachelor party in Miami on a private plane when he picked up his SUV at Pearson International Airport and drove home.
He was speeding when he ran a stop sign, T-boning the minivan carrying the Neville-Lake family.
Nine-year-old Daniel Neville-Lake, five-year-old Harrison, their two-year-old sister Milly and their 65-year-old grandfather, Gary Neville, were all killed in the crash.
In November 2018, Muzzo was denied both day and full parole. He was eligible to reapply one year later.
“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 of the issue of impairment, leads the Board to conclude your risk remains undue,” the Parole Board of Canada (PBC)’s decision read.
For Neville-Lake, knowing the impaired driver responsible for killing her sons, daughter and father could be out on day or full parole in a matter of months is gut-wrenching.
“I am very sickened to know that there is a chance he could be in the community,” she said.
The Parole Board of Canada would not confirm to Global News whether Muzzo was up for parole, as only registered victims are eligible to receive this information under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
“Some victims will request to be notified of an offender’s application for conditional release by the Correctional Service of Canada and/or the Parole Board of Canada so that they may submit a victim statement for consideration,” a spokesperson for the Parole Board of Canada told Global News.
The thought of having to prepare a victim impact statement and stand up before the board to deliver it in Muzzo’s presence weighs heavily on Neville-Lake.
“Whilst I am grateful that our laws allow victims like myself and the community to express their concerns at these types of hearings, it is an emotional and psychological nightmare,” she said.
But this is Neville-Lake’s reality.
She spends much of her time visiting her children at their “forever home,” bringing gifts, balloons and even cake on their birthdays.
The next one is Daniel’s birthday. On Feb. 3, he would have been turning 14.
She has also become active in educating youth about the perils of drinking and driving.
And there is one more thing Neville-Lake is doing in the lead-up to Muzzo’s next parole hearing: she is reaching out to the many people who have supported her family over the last five years with a request for community statements.
“Community statements are a chance for the community to express their concerns about safety, and so long as they follow the rules that the parole board lays out, they are considered,” she explained.
In a letter sent to her supporters, Neville-Lake writes: “I am very grateful that you have taken the time to share your thoughts and stories with me, and I have a request I would like you to consider.”
She then explains the process of submitting a community statement to the Parole Board of Canada.
“Letters like this can be written for any victims of any crime against the offender. This is not just special for my family.. this is where you get the chance to voice your concerns directly to the people who have to consider them,” Neville-Lake’s letter reads.
“The PBC wants to hear from the community about their concerns. Not many people know about community statements,” she explained.
What’s it like at Beaver Creek Institution?
Meanwhile, a former PBC member revealed what it is like for offenders, including Muzzo, at Beaver Creek Institution in the Town of Gravenhurst, north of Toronto.
“I think the biggest thing in a minimum-security institution, you just have more freedom to move around, bungalow-style living, that fence is just a brown picket fence — it’s no longer double razor wire fence,” described John Muise.
He referred to Beaver Creek as “a slightly run-down summer camp” offering greater privileges than a medium- or maximum-security institution.
“A nice comfortable setting … more access to conjugal visits, more access to the luxuries of life, including barbecues,” Muise said.
“There is, in fact, a little mini-putt.”
Muise also weighed in on the possibility that Muzzo would be granted day parole or full parole at his next hearing.
“If he took the time, after he was denied in November 2018, to go back and address the things that the Board telegraphed in their decision to get on top of and gather some more insight … about what he needs to do to stay clean or not return to the same kind of crime, then yes, there is a good chance he could be out on the streets,” he said.
Petition gets support
An online petition is circulating that was started by Jennifer Stallman, another mother in the Greater Toronto Area.
Stallman was hoping to get 10,000 signatures. More than that have already signed.
“My goal is for Marco Muzzo to complete his 10-year sentence… A family was broken apart. As a mom, this breaks my heart,” she said.
In her petition, Stallman writes: “Our community has been deeply affected since Sept. 27, 2015, by the deaths of the Neville-Lake children and their grandfather.”
“We need people to think twice before driving under the influence,” she told Global News. “Scare them into making the right decision to take a taxi, Uber, subway or bus to travel safely.”
Muzzo’s lawyer, Brian Greenspan, did not respond to a request for comment.
The reality that Muzzo will eventually be released from prison is not lost on Neville-Lake.
But she will continue to do everything she can to ensure the public is aware and has a say in the outcome.
“The parole board wants to know what the community thinks and how the community feels — they want to hear from you,” Neville-Lake wrote in her letter, signing the request: “Jennifer, Angel Daniel, Angel Harry and Angel Milly.”