NY couple pleads guilty in 4 pharmacy killings

September 8, 2011 12:41:25 PM PDT
A New York man pleaded guilty Thursday to killing four people during a pharmacy robbery for prescription painkillers and his wife, who drove the getaway car, pleaded guilty to robbery.

About 40 of the victims' relatives looked on as David Laffer pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges and his wife, Melinda Brady, pleaded guilty to robbery. The judge promised four consecutive life terms for Laffer. Brady faces a potential sentence of 21 to 25 years in prison.

Mary Moran, the grandmother of one of the victims, Jamie Taccetta, said after the court hearing in Suffolk County Court that she was "very, very happy" that the guilty pleas will preclude the possibility of hearing gruesome testimony during a trial.

"We don't have to think of my granddaughter and the way she died. We can go on and remember her the way she lived," said Moran, who was the only relative to speak at a news conference.

Prosecutors said Brady was not charged with murder because they could not prove she knew of Laffer's plan to kill. Both will be sentenced on Oct. 17.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota called the killings "probably one of the most gruesome, horrible crimes that we have had in the annals, the history of Suffolk County. Today those pleas guarantee that Mr. Laffer will never see the light of day."

Authorities said Laffer walked into Haven Drugs in Medford shortly after 10 a.m. on June 19 - Father's Day - 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 his backpack with hydrocodone-type painkillers.

Store surveillance video showed the assailant, 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 behind the counter. Laffer then found the store clerk and shot her. As he began filling a backpack with pills, two customers walked into the store and he sneaked up behind them and fired shots into their heads. He then fled with thousands of pills.

Laffer's attorney, Eric Naiburg, said his client wanted to plead guilty to "give the families of these victims some closure. I think it was an appropriate thing to do. I make no excuses for my client's conduct. Obviously there are no excuses that can be made for his conduct."

He and prosecutors insisted there were no plea negotiations linked to the guilty pleas.

As far as explaining Laffer's actions, Naiburg offered: "He did say to me at one time it wasn't supposed to happen this way," but the attorney did not elaborate.

Brady's Legal Aid attorney did not comment after the court hearing.

The crime was the deadliest on Long Island since a gunman opened fire on a commuter train in 1993, killing six and wounding 19.

Hours after her arrest, 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.

On Thursday, Brady spoke in a barely audible voice, answering "yes" to a series of questions about how she and her husband plotted the holdup, staking 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.

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