Anger, yes. Disappointment, certainly. But not surprise.
That doesn’t make it any easier for Jennifer Neville-Lake, who lost her father and precious kids to Muzzo’s selfish drunk driving. Hours after the decision, she was still so shaken that she couldn’t recall why the parole board was releasing him.
“I didn’t think I could be any more broken,” she told the Toronto Sun. “I am sorry but I don’t remember much. Fear and tears are what I remember.”
Neville-Lake announced the ruling on social media after “attending” Muzzo’s parole board hearing via teleconference due to COVID-19.
“No matter what happened today, Daniel, Harry and Milly don’t get to come back home. My dad isn’t coming home to my mom,” she wrote .
“Nothing changes for me.
“If you wrote a Community Statement for my family, thank you for doing your best.
“I know I did my best.
“My family’s killer, drunk driver Marco Michael Muzzo has been granted day parole.”
Neville-Lake had to fill us in after the media was excluded from listening to the parole hearing. She was almost shut out as well until weeks of lobbying finally allowed her — and now other victims — to participate by phone.
In her victim impact statement, the shattered mother urged the board not to release Muzzo from a minimum-security prison in Gravenhurst.
“He has served just over one year for each of the deaths that he caused. It is just not fair that he can be released prior to serving all of the minimal sentence that he received for this destruction of my family.
“Please don’t give this drunk driver any more privilege than he has already received.”
Parole Board spokesman Holly Knowles later confirmed Muzzo was granted day parole but denied full parole. A full written decision will follow, she said.
Muzzo also released a statement through his lawyer apologizing for the “terrible pain” he’s caused. “I ruined their lives and I take full responsibility for what I have done. I always will.
“I was careless and irresponsible when I made the choice to drink and drive,” Muzzo continued. “There is no way that I can undo the damage that I have caused. I will live with this for the rest of my life.”
But he will live with it while enjoying his freedom.
Day parole usually means he can now continue his employment during the day — Muzzo works for his family’s billion-dollar construction business — while returning to a halfway house at night.
The privileged life he knew will not be far behind.
After arriving home by private jet from his Miami bachelor party on Sept. 27, 2015, Muzzo “took a chance” and got behind the wheel of his Jeep with almost three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system.
Muzzo, 29 at the time, ran a stop sign and T-boned the family minivan at the intersection of Kirby Rd. and Kipling Ave. — killing driver Gary Neville, 65, and Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, Harrison, 5, and Milagros, 2.
After pleading guilty, he was sentenced in 2016 to what was considered a stiff 10 years in prison. But after a scant three years, Muzzo applied for parole — and very nearly got it.
The panel turned him down only after Muzzo “sabotaged” his chances by minimizing his issues with alcohol. The clincher was telling the board he’d need to consume eight or nine drinks before considering himself too impaired to drive.
A year and a half later, Muzzo wasn’t going to make the same mistake. He likely took every alcohol counselling program available at Beaver Creek prison to demonstrate his new insight into his problem.
So MADD Canada’s CEO wasn’t surprised Muzzo was successful this time.
“I’m sure after the parole board told him to get his act together about his alcohol use, he made the appropriate strides in the institution,” said Andy Murie.
“So there was no other reason to keep him from day parole. It was exceptional he got denied the last time,” he added. “It would have been pretty exceptional if he’d been denied again.”
And what a sad statement that is about our system.