NEWMARKET, Ont. – A drunk driver who killed three children and their grandfather in a horrific crash told the grieving family Wednesday that he wished he could erase his “inexcusable” actions, but his apology was rejected by the children’s parents.
Marco Muzzo, 29, faced a packed courtroom as he expressed the sorrow and regret he said have been consuming him since the Sept. 27 tragedy in Vaughan, Ont.
“I am tortured by the grief and the pain that I have caused the entire family,” he said.
“I will forever be haunted by the reality of what I have done. I am truly sorry.”
His voice trembling at times, Muzzo acknowledged that his words could bring no consolation to those whose lives have been irreparably harmed by his behaviour.
But he vowed to work to make amends by educating others on the dangers of drunk driving.
“I will spend the rest of my life attempting to atone for my conduct,” he said.
READ MORE: 3 findings from Marco Muzzo’s psychiatric report
Muzzo pleaded guilty earlier this month to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
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, died after the van they were in was hit by an SUV.
Jennifer and Edward Neville-Lake, whose family was decimated in the crash, left the room as Muzzo took the stand and did not return until he was back in the prisoner’s box.
Outside court, Jennifer Neville-Lake said the couple had no interest in what Muzzo had to say and questioned the sincerity of his remorse.
“There’s nothing he could absolutely say that would have any impact on me on my life so I don’t want to listen to the man who is responsible for killing my children,” she told reporters outside the court. “There’s nothing he can say, his actions spoke louder than words.”
FULL TEXT OF MARCO MUZZO’S STATEMENT
I stand here before you today with great remorse, sympathy and unimaginable regret. As I listened with horror yesterday to the details of the catastrophic consequences of my actions, I knew that 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 am sorry and apologize to your family from the bottom of my heart.
I am at a loss for words and I am on a constant search for the right way to express to you my sorrow. I know that there are no actions that can ever change what has happened. I know that there is no steps that I can take to bring back your children Daniel, Harrison, and Millie Neville-Lake and your father Gary Neville – I pray that I could – but I cannot. I wish that I could undo the heartbreaking experiences that your mother Neriza Neville and grandmother Josephina Frias had to witness and continue to live through. I am tortured by the grief and the pain that I have caused your entire family and the tragic effect that this has had on so many others and its impact upon the community.
I could never have imagined the degree of suffering and pain I have caused. If I could reverse the hands of time, I would without hesitation. I want nothing more than to attempt to bring some peace to your hearts and minds.
I wish that I could be able to give back to your family for all I have taken. I will spend the rest of my life attempting to atone for my conduct – by devoting myself to education the public of the disastrous consequences of drinking and driving.
Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. I pray every day for the loss of your family and to help diminish the extreme sadness and grief you feel. As God resides in our hearts, and your family resides with Him, I hope that you can find some comfort in your faith.
I will forever be haunted by the reality of what I have done and I am truly sorry.
The family has even requested a court order barring Muzzo from contacting them from behind bars, though his lawyer said Muzzo would respect their wishes without an official restraint.
Just a day earlier, Neville-Lake had stared down Muzzo as she delivered an emotional statement to the court, saying his actions had shattered her world and robbed her of her identity as a mother.
It’s common for mourning families to dismiss the apologies offered by drunk drivers, said Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada. And while offenders often vow to change, few fulfil their promises, he said.
Muzzo’s lawyer, Brian Greenspan, said his client is “grief-stricken” and takes full responsibility for his actions.
READ MORE: Marco Muzzo speaks for first time at sentencing hearing
The crash was the result of a “terrible decision made by a very good person” who had otherwise led a “virtually exemplary” life, he said.
The Muzzo family, one of Canada’s wealthiest, owns the drywall company Marel Contractors and is worth nearly $1.8 billion, according to Canadian Business magazine.
Dozens of people, including relatives and employees of the family business, wrote letters denouncing what they called an unfair portrayal of Muzzo in the media.
A neighbour said Muzzo, who he has known for years, was always willing to lend a hand, while an employee described him as “humble beyond words and loved by everyone.”
His fiancee said the pair were inseparable and had spent the last few years building their home. They were set to be married in October, but those plans were derailed after Muzzo’s arrest.
A compassionate and helpful man, Muzzo took over caring for his family after losing his father to cancer a decade ago, Taryn Hampton said in her letter.
Marco Muzzo, right, leaves the Newmarket courthouse surrounded by family, on February 4, 2016. A sentencing hearing is scheduled today for the 29-year-old who pled guilty to driving drunk and causing a horrific crash that killed three children and their grandfather. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Marco Muzzo, right, leaves the Newmarket courthouse surrounded by family, on February 4, 2016. A sentencing hearing is scheduled today for the 29-year-old who pled guilty to driving drunk and causing a horrific crash that killed three children and their grandfather.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
The Crown, meanwhile, compared Muzzo’s actions to walking down the street with a loaded gun.
“It is time to send a message,” Crown lawyer Paul Tait said in calling for a sentence of 10 to 12 years and a ban on driving for eight to 10.
“Every drunk driver makes a choice and in this case that choice resulted in catastrophic consequences for the victims’ family,” he said. “An entire generation of the Neville-Lake family was wiped out in one fell swoop.”
There is no maximum sentence for impaired driving causing death and Tait said the judge could impose a sentence beyond what he requested, noting that it would set a strong precedent.
The defence has argued an eight-year sentence would be sufficient, with credit for the four months he has already spent in custody.
A psychiatric report filed with the court Wednesday said Muzzo is showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and mild depression.
READ MORE: Marco Muzzo: Why a similar case attracted an 8-year prison sentence
Dr. Graham Glancy, who conducted the evaluation, said Muzzo shows “considerable remorse” and appears “distressed and tearful” at times, particularly when discussing the crash.
The psychiatrist said Muzzo told him he was stunned by the breathalyzer results, which court has heard were between two and three times the legal limit.
He said Muzzo recalled drinking until 3 a.m. the night before the crash but feeling fine in the morning. Muzzo remembered having three to four drinks on a plane before taking the wheel, but did not feel drunk.
Court has heard he was returning from his bachelor party in Florida on a private plane and picked up his car at Pearson International Airport.
Muzzo is to be sentenced on March 29.