David Laffer, the killer of four people inside a quiet New York pharmacy during a drug robbery was sentenced Thursday to a series of life terms without parole.
Melinda Brady, his wife, who drove the getaway car, received 25 years in prison.
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 U.S. pharmacy robberies.
David Laffer 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.
The murderer jammed a backpack full of pills after killing the four.
The victim-impact statements were so emotional that even hardened homicide officers fought back tears as they watched, but David Laffer showed no emotion.
Mary Moran, the grandmother of victim Jamie Taccetta, said: “He is a dark, hell-bound soul. He is a coward. He has no soul.”
Later, Mary Moran looked at David Laffer and said: “Burn in hell.”
Laura Bustamonte, the daughter of victim 71-year-old victim Bryon Sheffield, looked directly at David Laffer and said: “You had a gun and you didn’t care who or how many people had to die for your mission to be accomplished.”
David Laffer, having his hands cuffed behind his back, sounded sober and straightforward as he read a statement from a paper held by his lawyer.
He said: “I know that it doesn’t begin to explain or excuse my horrific actions that day.
“However, if a discussion and recognition of prescription pill abuse and doctor-shopping will be generated among the public, then maybe something beneficial can come from this.”
The killer said of the victims’ families: “To ask for forgiveness from them would be a selfish act.”
Melinda Brady had pleaded guilty to robbery charges and was sentenced Thursday to 25 years.
Prosecutors said they could not prove that Melinda Brady was aware in advance that her husband planned the killings and, thus, could not charge her with murder.
Melinda Brady, who cried throughout the proceeding, said: “I am so sorry for the loss of your loved ones. That awful day will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Judge James Hudson responded: “You’re more sorry for yourself than for the victims.”
Daniel Taccetta, one of the victim’s brother, said Melinda Brady was getting away with murder. “She is just as guilty as he is,” he said.
“You are both cowards for what you did to my family,” said Tricia Taccetta, Jamie Taccetta’s mother.
Judge James Hudson later told David Laffer: “I promised you when you pled guilty that you could not hope for mercy and I will not disappoint you. You merit only the scorn of this community, your victim’s families and this court.”
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota called the killings among the most gruesome in the history of the county, which in 1974 was the scene of the “Amityville Horror” slayings in which a man killed six members of his own family.
Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney James Chalifoux said Thursday: “We as a society look at it and see that it could have been anybody. It could have been me. It could have been my children, or it could have been me or my wife.”
David Laffer, a 33-year-old Army veteran, walked into Haven Drugs shortly after 10:00 a.m. on June 19 and opened fire without announcing a robbery, killing 45-year-old pharmacist Raymond Ferguson, who was filling in for a colleague celebrating Father’s Day.
The killer then shot 17-year-old clerk Jennifer Mejia, who was due to graduate high school days later.
David Laffer then fatally shot two customers who unwittingly walked in on the carnage, authorities said.
One was Bryon Sheffield, a 71-year-old retiree picking up medication for his ailing wife; the couple was planning their 50th wedding anniversary in July.
The other, Jamie Taccetta, was a 33-year-old mother of two who was planning her wedding.
Store surveillance video showed David Laffer disguised in a scruffy beard augmented by mascara, firing at the victims.
The first shot came from a .45-caliber handgun hidden in David Laffer’s backpack. The bullet struck pharmacist Raymond Ferguson, behind the counter. He then found Jennifer Mejia, and shot her.
As he began filling a backpack with pills, 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.
David Laffer has since said in a jailhouse interview that the first shot went off accidentally and when he realized what happened, he killed the others.
Prosecutors say David 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 not far from 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 David Laffer was seen wearing was found buried in his yard.
David Laffer was sentenced to five consecutive life terms. The five first-degree counts reflect the deaths of the four victims in the pharmacy, plus an umbrella charge for multiple murders.
In addition, Judge James Hudson said he would push that David Laffer serve his sentence in solitary confinement, with no privileges.
David Laffer has said he expects he will be killed in prison.
“I’m not even under any illusions that I’d make it 15 years,” David Laffer told Newsday in a September interview.