AP source: Plea expected in NY drugstore shootings

AP News
Posted: Sep 07, 2011 5:47 PM
AP source: Plea expected in NY drugstore shootings

A New York couple charged in a prescription drug robbery that left four people dead are expected to plead guilty to all charges, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

David Laffer, 33, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the June 19 shootings at Haven Drugs in Medford, on Long Island. He is accused of walking into the small pharmacy on a quiet Sunday morning and opening fire on the pharmacist behind the counter, and a clerk nearby. Two customers who unwittingly walked in on the carnage were shot in the head, prosecutors said.

Laffer then fled the store with a backpack filled with hydrocodone-type painkillers, authorities said.

The law enforcement official, who is familiar with the case but was not authorized to release information and spoke on condition of anonymity, also said Laffer's wife, Melinda Brady, would plead guilty Thursday to robbery.

She is accused of driving the getaway car after the holdup. Prosecutors said she was not charged with murder because there was no evidence that she was aware her husband intended to commit the killings.

The fifth first-degree murder count against Laffer is an umbrella charge for committing multiple killings during the felony holdup, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota has said. Laffer faces life without parole in the killings.

A secretary for Laffer's defense attorney, Eric Naiburg, would not give her full name but said she was authorized to confirm the expected guilty pleas. The attorney did not return calls seeking comment.

Sheila Sheffield, whose 71-year-old husband, Bryon, was killed while picking up a prescription for her, also confirmed she had been told by prosecutors that the guilty pleas were expected. She declined to comment further during a brief telephone interview with the AP.

A Legal Aid attorney for Brady did not return a telephone call seeking comment, and Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, declined to comment.

The defendants are due Thursday in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead. Laffer was being held without bail, while Brady has been unable to post $750,000 bail.

The killings were the worst on Long Island since a gunman opened fire on a commuter train in 1993, killing six and wounding 19.

Spota said at a news conference after Laffer and Brady were arrested that the massacre had been captured on video. It shows the assailant, disguised in a scruffy beard augmented by mascara, shooting the victims; the first shot was fired with his weapon _ a .45-caliber handgun _ hidden in his backpack.

"More than any other event in recent memory, this horrific crime exposes one of our most basic fears," Spota said. "That fear is of a gunman who is willing _ and in this case almost eager _ to randomly and senselessly kill."

The prosecutor estimated that 1,000 pain pills were found in the couple's house.

Brady blamed her husband when she was led from police headquarters to a nearby precinct holding cell following her arrest. "He was doing it because he lost his job and I was sick," Brady said. "He did it. He did all of this," she told reporters.