Marco Muzzo wiped away tears and looked toward his family as he was escorted out of the Newmarket courtroom on Tuesday after being sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Muzzo was convicted of four counts of impaired driving causing death and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm in the Sept. 27, 2015 drunk driving crash that killed Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, Harrison Neville-Lake, 5, and Milagros Neville-Lake, 2, along with their grandfather Gary Neville in Vaughan, Ont., northwest of Toronto. The children’s grandmother, Neriza Neville, and great-grandmother, Josefina Frias, were also injured in the crash.
Muzzo pleaded guilty to the six counts on Feb. 4.
Justice Michelle Fuerst subtracted the eight months Muzzo spent in custody from his sentence, which will result in him serving nine years and four months concurrently with a 12-year prohibition from driving when he is released from prison.
Fuerst considered the positions of both parties regarding the length of Muzzo’s sentence. In February, the defence submitted that Muzzo should be sentenced to eight years in prison, while the Crown suggested 10 to 12.
In her ruling, Fuerst recounted certain victim impact statements, referencing specific passages demonstrating the intense suffering of Neville-Lakes, as well as their family and friends as a result of the crash.
Jennifer Neville-Lake, the mother of the three children, spoke outside of the courthouse, holding up a photo book she created, entitled “Choices…Actions…Consequences…”
She flipped through each page showing photos of her father’s wedding, her and her siblings as young children, her own wedding photo, and a photo of her three children, prior to the crash.
“This was a choice made by an individual and choices are actions that have consequences,” Neville-Lake said.
She then proceeded to show the media photos of their family vehicle after the crash and her two youngest children holding hands moments before she and her husband had to make the choice to take them off life support.
The final photo is of three tiny urns.
“When you choose to drink and drive you are hurting other families, you are killing someone else’s babies.”
After summarizing the victim impact statements, Fuerst addressed the 92 letters of support for Muzzo, submitted by family members, friends, co-workers and other members of his community.
Muzzo’s family wiped away tears as Fuerst read the contents of the letters, which describe Muzzo as a humble and hard-working man.
“The letter writers consistently speak of Mr. Muzzo as a compassionate and kind person who goes out of his way to help others,” Fuerst said. “The letters are replete with small everyday acts of kindness done by him for others.”
Fuerst listed a number of aggravating factors involved in her decision including that Muzzo chose to drink and drive, was speeding and killed four people.
Included in the mitigating factors was the fact that Muzzo pleaded guilty early on in the legal process, had no previous criminal record and expressed deep and genuine remorse, the judge said.
Muzzo’s lawyer Brian Greenspan, spoke outside of the Newmarket court following the decision.
“Marco Muzzo took full responsibility for his actions, took full accountability for his actions and today he fully accepts the sentence that was imposed by Justice Fuerst today and will commence his sentence today – the sentence that was imposed by her honour,” Greenspan said.
Carolyn Swinson, a spokesperson for MADD Canada said that often, sentences do not reflect what the victims are looking for. She said she hopes this trial sends a message not to drink and drive because it’s not worth it.
“I don’t know how you could possibly live with yourself after killing three gorgeous children and their grandfather. You have to live with that. We hope it will be a message to people out there to say you can go to jail for a long time, don’t do it.”