Killer in NY pharmacy slaying faces life in prison

AP News
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Posted: Nov 10, 2011 3:02 AM
Killer in NY pharmacy slaying faces life in prison

A man who executed four people inside a quiet New York pharmacy is due to receive consecutive prison sentences of life without parole.

David Laffer pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the June holdup at Haven Drugs in Medford, perhaps the most egregious case in a wave of pharmacy robberies sweeping the United States.

Laffer has said he committed the robbery because he had lost his job, and his wife required not only painkillers but also blood pressure medicine, anti-nausea pills, and muscle relaxants. He jammed a backpack full of pills after killing the four victims.

His wife, Melinda Brady, who admitted driving the getaway car, faces up to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to robbery charges.

Both will be sentenced in a Long Island courtroom on Thursday.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota called the killings among the most gruesome in the history of the county. The 1974 "Amityville Horror" killings in which a man killed six members of his own family was the worst mass killing in Suffolk before the Medford homicides.

Laffer, a 33-year-old Army veteran, walked into Haven Drugs shortly after 10 a.m. on June 19 and opened fire without announcing a robbery, killing a 45-year-old pharmacist filling in for a colleague celebrating Father's Day, and a 17-year-old store clerk who was due to graduate high school just days later. He then fatally shot two customers who unwittingly walked in on the carnage, authorities said, before filling his backpack with hydrocodone-type painkillers.

The two customers were a 71-year-old retiree picking up medication for his ailing wife; the couple was planning their 50th wedding anniversary in July, and a 33-year-old mother of two who was planning her wedding.

The estates of two of the victims have indicated they intend to sue Suffolk County and others over the deaths.

Store surveillance video showed Laffer disguised in a scruffy beard augmented by mascara, firing at the victims.

The first shot was fired from a .45-caliber handgun hidden in the backpack, striking the pharmacist, Raymond Ferguson, behind the counter. Laffer then found the store clerk, Jennifer Mejia, and shot her. As he began filling a backpack with pills, two customers _ Bryon Sheffield and Jamie Taccetta _ walked into the store and he sneaked up behind them and fired shots into their heads. He then fled with thousands of pills.

Laffer has since said in a jailhouse interview that the first shot went off accidentally and when he realized what happened, he proceeded to kill the others. Prosecutors say Laffer and his wife staked out several pharmacies before settling on Haven Drugs, a tiny family-owned business on an out-of-the-way suburban street.

Investigators said they found parts of the disassembled weapon used in the holdup, as well as at least 2,000 hydrocodone-type pills in the couple's home, which is near the pharmacy.

Other evidence, including the backpack and empty medicine bottles, were believed tossed out in trash bins behind businesses in the area. A shirt Laffer was seen wearing was found buried in his yard.

Laffer said he expects he will be killed in prison. "I'm not even under any illusions that I'd make it 15 years," he told Newsday in a September interview.