Drunk driver asks for mercy, apol­o­gizes

Three sib­lings, grand­fa­ther killed in crash

National Post (Latest Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Joseph Brean

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.


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