Couple pleads guilty in deadly Long Island pharmacy heist

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 08, 2011 3:33 PM
Couple pleads guilty in deadly Long Island pharmacy heist

RIVERHEAD, New York (Reuters) - A couple pleaded guilty on Thursday to criminal charges linked to the killings of four people including a teenage girl during an armed heist of prescription painkillers at a Long Island pharmacy.

David Laffer, the shooter, and his wife Melinda Brady, who drove the getaway car, pleaded guilty to their roles in the Father's Day shooting at Haven Drug Store in Medford, New York.

Dozens of family members of those killed in the robbery packed the first rows in the Suffolk County Courthouse where a judge asked Laffer, 33, how he pleaded to charges of first-degree murder and criminal use of a firearm.

"Yes sir, guilty," Laffer replied, admitting that he had intended to kill the four victims to steal thousands of hydrocodone pills.

The judge then promised Laffer four life terms in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced on October 17.

"The only way he will get out of prison is if he dies," Laffer's attorney Eric Naiburg said.

At the hearing, his wife Melinda Brady, 30, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery, admitting she helped her husband plan the crime and drove the getaway car. She will be sentenced to 21 to 25 years in prison.

Gunned down in the robbery were Jennifer Mejia, 17, who worked at the pharmacy and was just days away from her high school graduation and pharmacist Raymond Ferguson, 45, who was filling in for a man who wanted Father's Day off to spend with his family.

Also killed were two customers, Jamie Taccetta, 33, who was about to be married, and Bryon Sheffield, 71.

Outside the courtroom, Taccetta's brother said he was planning a fund-raiser to help with the cost of her funeral.

"My sister was my best friend, and never in my lifetime will I speak to her again, and it is very hard," her brother said.

"Seeing this guy and his wife in court today, it is disgusting what they did. But I am happy they pleaded guilty. A trial would have destroyed everybody, not only my family but everybody's family."

(Reporting by Sophia Hall; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Johnston)