On Wednesday, Marco Muzzo read a brief statement in a Newmarket, Ontario, courthouse. The 29-year-old man has pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two of impaired driving causing bodily harm. Of the four people who died, three were Edward and Jennifer Neville-Lake's children: Daniel, 9, Harrison, 5, and Milly, 2. The children's 65-year-old grandfather, Gary Neville, also died.
While Muzzo awaits his sentencing, we are still reflecting on the impact statement made by the children's mother. On Tuesday, Jennifer Neville-Lake read her statement from the witness stand, breaking into tears.
Her words are every parent's nightmare as they describe with incredible detail what it is like to lose all your children in an instant.
— Toronto Sun (@TheTorontoSun) February 24, 2016
In her statement, Neville-Lake describes how she realized it was her family who was in the accident. After she learned her son Daniel and her father were dead and her two other children were on life support, she remembers screaming, "All of them? All of my babies are gone? Not one left?"
In the hospital, she asked that her two children, Harry and Milly, be put together so that they could die together. Then she and her husband crawled into the hospital bed with them as the family sang good-bye.
She didn't get to see her son, Daniel, until she got to the funeral home. He was admitted as "John Doe." But he had a name. He had a mother and a father.
In the funeral home, the grieving mother had to do what no parent should ever have to do: pick out their caskets as their "forever beds" as she describes them. Leaving them at the funeral home was so hard: "I've never been separated from my kids this long, not without talking to them. Nor my dad for that matter."
Neville-Lake also described the "forever clothing" she chose for them to be buried in. Each outfit describes their unique and beautiful personalities.
"I am listening in vain for my kids to call out my name and I don't hear them. I don't have anyone left to call me mom."
"Daniel is buried in his new ballet clothes and basketball shoes. Harry in his favourite dress that he wanted to wear to school on that last Friday for pictures, his pink hair, tiara and pink crocs. Milly is buried in the new dress my parents gave her that last Friday before you ended their lives."
After the funeral she had to watch as "my dreams, my loves, my world and my legacy are lowered into the ground. I want to go with them so badly."
Neville-Lake is still left with many questions surrounding her oldest's death. "It's now 2016 and I still don't know how, when or where my Daniel died. I need to know what happened to my beautiful dancer."
Her life was forever changed in an instant. She describes how she would get up every day at 5 AM to a "very busy, very active house full of laughter and love." Now she wakes up every day to "another day of this hell on earth."
"I am listening in vain for my kids to call out my name and I don't hear them. I don't have anyone left to call me mom... You have silenced my kids' voices... I sit and stare at the pictures your drunk driving left me with, the only pieces I have left, sitting for hours on end, waiting not so patiently till I can join them. I miss my kids. I miss my dad. I want my old life back."
Jennifer Neville-Lake holds photos of her son Daniel, on Feb. 4, 2016. (Photo: Christopher Katsarov/CP)
Where she once made everything for her family, from shampoo to bread to cheese, Neville-Lake now needs help to complete the most mundane tasks. Even turning on the stove triggers acute pain. Her kitchen table where she used to teach her children to bake, write letters to Santa and do science experiments, now sits empty. Looking at it is "like a repeat sucker punch to the gut."
Now she wanders aimlessly through her empty house, looking for her children. "I realize with despair that your choices have destroyed every identity I have ever forged my whole life... When you killed my children, you took away my identity as a mother and without my kids, I'm nothing anymore. Our family has been obliterated by your selfish actions."
Even her friendships, most of which were forged around her children, are now very difficult because her children are frozen in time. "How do I relate to them now? I don't belong anywhere."
"When you killed my children, you took away my identity as a mother and without my kids, I'm nothing anymore."
She speaks of her son Harry's special needs. How she adapted his clothes, worked on his therapy, scrimped and saved to have their bathroom retro-fitted to help him be more independent. "Your action of drinking was something that ironically my Harry couldn't do yet. He couldn't drink anything out of a regular cup without help. Another goal he will never achieve because of you."
Sadness comes at her from everything she looks at. The morning of the accident, Neville-Lake was buying her children Christmas presents online. When they arrived in October, she was filled with immense sadness just thinking of the joy that they were supposed to bring to her children.
She is also laden with guilt: "When I begin to cry over one of my dead, I feel so guilty because I am crying for one and not the other."
"Like my children you put on life support, I am lifeless, with only my heart beating. I live with the facade of independence, a mere ghost of whom I used to be. Instead of being the one that people would turn to for help, I am now the one who needs it... I see my husband, who was once so strong and brave reduced to a shadow of whom he was. I am not sure who cries the loudest, whose nightmares are more terrifying or whose tears are on my pillow anymore."
"I am serving a life sentence because of you where every waking moment is haunted by what was and what can never be again."
As a result of the accident, Neville-Lake says she suffers from anxiety attacks when people are late. She has migraines from crying so much and hair loss from the stress. She has counted every day she had with her children, down to the last minute. And she knows exactly how many days she's been without them.
To Muzzo, she said: "One day, if you have kids and are blessed enough to have a child with special needs you might be able to understand what you took from me."
She finished her statement by reading the names of her father and her children: "Those are the ones who paid for your drinks with the price of their blood."
Read Neville-Lake's words here: