A woman accused of driving the getaway car after her husband allegedly massacred four people inside a pharmacy during a prescription painkiller theft will not be charged with murder because authorities have no evidence she knew in advance the killings would happen, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
"We cannot legally prove that she knew that her husband was armed with a deadly weapon when he went into the store," Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota told reporters following Melinda Brady's arraignment on an upgraded robbery charge. "It would be inappropriate to have a felony murder charge placed against her."
The Father's Day killings at a small family-owned pharmacy in Medford, N.Y., represent the worst mass killing on Long Island since a gunman opened fire on a commuter train in 1993, murdering six and wounding 19.
Brady, 29, on Tuesday entered a not-guilty plea to the first-degree robbery charge, which carries up to 25 years in prison if she's convicted. She had previously been charged with third-degree robbery.
Her husband, David Laffer, 33, faces first-degree murder charges.
Authorities said Laffer walked into Haven Drugs shortly after 10 a.m. on June 19 and opened fire without announcing a robbery, killing a pharmacist and a 17-year-old store clerk. He then fatally shot two customers who unwittingly walked in on the carnage, authorities said, before filling a backpack with hydrocodone-type painkillers.
The massacre was captured on a store surveillance video camera.
Although she had been unable to post $750,000 bail since she and her husband were arrested, a judge ordered Brady held without bail following the grand jury indictment. Laffer also is being held without bail.
Her Legal Aid attorney declined to comment after the brief court proceeding, which was attended by about 20 relatives of the victims.
Spota said the relatives were understandably upset that a grand jury failed to indict Brady on murder charges, but he said they understood the legal reasons. None of the relatives of the four shooting victims spoke with reporters after Brady's arraignment.
"I committed to them that if Mr. Laffer is convicted of the intentional murder of these people that he will never see the light of day," the prosecutor said.
Hours after her arrest last month, Brady blamed her husband as she was led from police headquarters to a nearby precinct holding cell. "He was doing it because he lost his job and I was sick," Brady told reporters. "He did it. He did all of this."
She had previously posted messages on a website discussing her difficulty with painkillers.
Prosecutors said Laffer and Brady appeared to be setting up an alibi when they went to a nearby convenience store about a half-hour after the killings. Although the pharmacy video camera showed him wearing a scruffy beard enhanced by mascara that prosecutors say was supplied by his wife, a clean-shaven Laffer is depicted in the convenience store surveillance video. The couple is seen purchasing beverages, authorities said.
Spota said since the couple's arrest, investigators have returned to their Medford home, where they located additional parts of the disassembled weapon allegedly used in the holdup, as well as 1,000 hydrocodone-type pills secreted in an appliance box. Prosecutors had previously said another 1,000 pills were found at the couple's home, but Spota conceded the exact number of pills taken during the robbery may never be known.
He said the couple flushed an unknown number of pills down the toilet before they were arrested.
Other evidence, including the backpack used in the holdup and empty medicine bottles, were believed tossed out in trash bins behind businesses in the area, he said. A shirt Laffer was seen wearing at the convenience store was found buried in the backyard of his home, Spota added.
The prosecutor conceded that Brady and her attorney have cooperated with authorities, but insisted her cooperation played no role in determining charges against her.
"The fact that she was not charged with murder has absolutely nothing to do with whatever cooperation she has given us," Spota said. "The law is simply such that we cannot charge her with murder."