A Toronto-area drunk driver who killed three children and their grandfather in a crash that captured national attention was granted full parole Tuesday, as officials stressed the need for ongoing counselling regarding substance abuse and other issues.
The decision was made as Marco Muzzo, 34, appeared before the Parole Board of Canada in a remote hearing that also heard the victims’ grieving relatives describe the ongoing trauma from the 2015 crash.
Before the decision was delivered, Muzzo said that while he can’t change the past, he hopes to help prevent others from doing what he did.
“I’m not asking for forgiveness and nor do I ever expect it,” he told the board.
“I know my reintegration has been slow and will continue to be slow and steady.”
Jennifer Neville-Lake, whose father and three children were killed in the crash, said the board’s decision won’t change her family’s loss.
“No matter what happened today, Daniel, Harry and Milly are not coming back home. My dad isn’t coming home to my mom. Nothing changed for me,” she said on Twitter after the hearing.
The board imposed a number of conditions on Muzzo, including that he not consume alcohol or go into bars and strip clubs, and that he stay out of Brampton, Ont., and the Regional Municipality of York.
Continuing counselling with his current treatment team on substance abuse and issues related to empathy will also be “crucial” to his reintegration, said panel member Doug Kirkpatrick.
Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years behind bars after pleading guilty in 2016 to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two of impaired driving causing bodily harm. He is also under a 12-year driving ban.
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, were killed in the September 2015 crash.
The children’s grandmother and great-grandmother were also seriously injured in the collision in Vaughan, Ont.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the children’s parents urged the board to not grant Muzzo parole, saying he has not truly taken responsibility or shown remorse for his actions.
They also asked that should Muzzo be released on full parole, he do so in another province to spare them the stress of potentially crossing paths with him.
“He scares me. The thought of him being out on the street frightens me greatly. I get panicked and anxious thinking about him,” Jennifer Neville-Lake, 41, told the board.
“There is absolutely nothing that can be done to spin the death of all of my children and my father into something good. The idea that three innocent kids have to pay the price for him to learn a common sense lesson about decency, responsibility, and road safety is repugnant.”
Edward Lake told the board he is angry his children never got the chance to grow up as a result of Muzzo’s actions.
“I feel like an empty shell. I have nightmares, severe anxiety and have great difficulty traveling in vehicles. I am petrified, that I may run into Marco Michael Muzzo when he is released,” he said.
“I feel that he does not regret drinking and driving. He just regrets getting caught.”
Muzzo was again questioned on his drinking habits leading up to the crash and described a life of largely social drinking often tied to business activities.
He acknowledged there were times before the incident when he “potentially” drove impaired, though he said he did not think so at the time.
When pressed by the panel, Muzzo maintained his drinking was “manageable” and his life “under control” prior to the crash, despite a number of speeding infractions and one instance of public intoxication.
Muzzo nonetheless said he takes full responsibility for the deaths he caused, naming the victims one by one. Asked whether it was the first time he had said their names publicly, Muzzo said he couldn’t recall, noting he has made several public apologies.
“It was me that made the decision, it was me that put the booze in (my) mouth, it was me who got behind the wheel, started the vehicle, there was nobody but me from beginning to end,” he told the panel.
Muzzo said knowing he caused the crash feels “terrible.”
“Who likes to know that they killed four people unintentionally but yet something that could have been easily prevented?” he said.
The panel heard Muzzo has support from a number of family members and friends, and intends to continue working for the family business on his release.
Muzzo was previously denied full parole last April, though he was granted day parole at that time.