Drunk driver asks for mercy, apologizes
Three siblings, grandfather killed in crash
As killer drunk driver Marco Muzzo took the witness stand in a Newmarket courtroom Wednesday to apologize and beg for mercy, the family of his victims stood up and walked out.
Muzzo, 29, was not technically a witness. He was not sworn in, and thus not legally bound to tell the truth. He answered no questions. He did not even address the judge who will decide how long he spends in prison for the crash that killed three siblings, Daniel Neville- Lake, 9, Harrison ( Harry), 5, and Milagros ( Milly), 2, and their grandfather, Gary Neville, 65.
Instead, in a clipped voice, moving quickly through a short script, Muzzo spoke directly to Edward Lake and Jennifer Neville- Lake, who only seconds earlier had pointedly left the courtroom, declining to even hear him, let alone offer a hint of forgiveness.
“As I listened in horror ( Tuesday) to the catastrophic consequences of my actions (in victim impact statements ), I knew my words would be of no consolation. Ever since the tragedy that occurred as a result of my inexcusable conduct, I have wanted to say that I’m sorry, and apologize to the whole family, from the bottom of my heart,” he said.
“I will spend the rest of my life attempting to atone for my conduct, and devoting myself to educating the public of the disastrous consequences of drinking and driving.”
Muzzo, the heir to a billion-dollar fortune, who robbed a family of its natural future in the horrific crash, was not simply making a public apology. He was throwing himself on the mercy of Judge Michelle Fuerst, and seeking to avoid the 10- to 12- year sentence advocated by the Crown, similar to what the average murderer can expect.
His lawyer, Brian Greenspan, said Muzzo deserves eight years.
Much of Wednesday was spent in a review of case law and how it applies to such a monstrous event, for which Muzzo pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two causing bodily harm.
“No sentence fashioned by any court would address this catastrophic loss,” said Crown prosecutor Paul Tait. “There i s no f i xed maximum, there is no cap.”
How Muzzo got here is a cautionary tale of epic proportions, because there were few moments in his life more filled with promise and privilege than the afternoon of Sept. 27 last year.
He grew up in a wealthy family, blessed with money from his grandfather’s drywalling and real estate empire. He had a steady job in the family business, where he had worked since they l et him sweep the floors as a boy, and was about to marry Taryn Hampton, who has supported him since the crash.
Muzzo went to Miami for his bachelor party, returning in a private jet to Pearson International Airport in Toronto, landing just after 3 p. m. It is not clear from the agreed facts when he started drinking, what he drank or with whom, but he became intoxicated, far too drunk to drive.
Forensic evidence s howed his blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was between 190 and 245 mg per 100ml of blood, about three times the legal driving limit of 80.
He l ater told a psychiatrist he was stunned by these results, because he remembered having only t hree or f our drinks on the plane and did not feel drunk. The night before, he had been drinking until the early morning.
The Neville- Lake children were on their way to Brampton, Ont., in a Grand Caravan with their grandparents, Neriza and Gary Neville, and great- grand- mother, Josephina Frias. Only the two women survived.
It was a T- bone collision on a clear, dry day. Muzzo’s vehicle blew through a stop sign just as the Grand Caravan entered the intersection. Muzzo saw what was about to happen and tried to avert it.
Evi dence s howed he braked, holding the pedal d o wn for a l most four seconds, which would have slowed his vehicle considerably. Even still, he hit the Caravan at an estimated 85 km/ h. The obvious conclusion is he had been travelling well over the 80 km/ h speed limit.
The injuries were catastrophic: bodies crushed and broken, spinal cords severed and displaced. Muzzo called 911.
It was clear to police r oughly what had happened. Two witnesses in a white Mercedes were unhurt despite being hit by Muzzo’s vehicle. Muzzo, although he was likely in shock from the collision, had to be supported on his feet and urinated on himself. His eyes were glossy and he smelled of alcohol, said a police officer at the scene.
Harry and Milly died in hospital, Harry holding his sister’s hand, after doctors placed them together, knowing nothing could save them.
Their parents made it to hospital in time to say a final goodbye, but they were too late for Daniel, who died three hours earlier. On this drive, Edward Lake made an attempt at suicide by trying to throw himself out of the moving car.
Reference letters submitted in his defence portray Muzzo as down- to- earth, humble and caring. They describe how f requently he cleared snow, cut grass, raked leaves, carried things for old people, offered directions to strangers, stopped for people in broken- down cars.
This last one — respectful behaviour on the roads — is at odds with his long record of driving offences, including speeding and texting while driving.
A psychiatric report prepared said Muzzo is showing symptoms of post- traumatic stress disorder and depression.
He will be sentenced on March 29.
Marco Muzzo, right, arrives with family at the Newmarket courthouse for his sentencing hearing on Tuesday.