Killer drunk driver Marco Muzzo “sabotaged” his progress in prison by underestimating his issues with alcohol, a parole board panel said in its ruling denying him day and full parole, released Tuesday.
Muzzo, 32, was denied parole in person at a hearing two weeks ago, with the full decision to follow. He is serving a 10-year prison sentence at Beaver Creek prison in Gravenhurst, having pleaded guilty in 2016 to several counts of impaired driving causing death in the crash that killed 65-year-old Gary Neville and his three grandchildren, Daniel, Harrison and Milagros Neville-Lake — 9, 5 and 2, respectively.
The panel noted that a substance abuse assessment conducted after he was sentenced suggested Muzzo was underestimating the seriousness of his alcohol use and could benefit from a “low-intensity substance abuse program.”
“As we examined the alcohol issue in some detail however, it became clear to the board (and perhaps to yourself) that your alcohol abuse or misuse was more serious,” the panel wrote in its decision.
“We learned today you tended to drink to excess, or in your words, ‘get wasted,’ on your birthdays, and that while you have never blacked out, you have been significantly drunk on more than 10 but less than 20 occasions.”
“You minimized the seriousness of the offending by suggesting it was only ‘a small handful of times,’” the panel said. “Of concern, you advised the board you felt you would need to consume eight or nine drinks before you would consider yourself impaired in the context of driving.
“When pressed on this issue, you altered your response indicating you believe eight or nine drinks would make you ‘wasted.’ In any event, in our view, it was clear you lack insight into the volume and frequency of your drinking and the risk it poses for you and others.”
The panel said Muzzo also showed a lack of transparency by failing to tell a psychiatrist who was evaluating him ahead of his 2016 sentencing that he had been ticketed for being intoxicated in public in 2012, when he became belligerent after being denied entry to a Vaughan strip club.
It was revealed at the parole hearing that Muzzo and a friend threatened the club bouncers’ lives, and that when an officer picked him up, Muzzo tried to kick the backseat windows out on the way to the station.
“You suggested you had simply forgotten the incident and claimed you were shocked when it was brought to your attention,” the panel wrote, adding that Muzzo admitted in the hearing he hoped the incident would never be discovered.
“It would seem you were trying to present yourself as a modest and responsible drinker who had simply made a terrible mistake on the day of the fatal collision. In the board’s view, you intentionally failed to disclose key information as you were hoping to paint yourself in a better light. In reality, you were simply impeding the progress you might have otherwise made.”
A person becomes eligible for full parole after serving one-third of their sentence and for day parole six months prior to that. Had Muzzo been granted day parole, he would have been released to a halfway house.
The panel’s decision notes police in the area of the halfway house are opposed to Muzzo’s release for public safety reasons, but does not specify the location of the house.
If granted full parole, for which he is eligible next May, Muzzo would have lived at home with his fiancée, according to the decision.
The board said it ideally would have liked to have seen evidence of Muzzo having completed a substance abuse program, something Muzzo will need to do in prison if he wants to get parole.
He is eligible to reapply in one year.
Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant