Suffolk County police apprehended a 33-year-old suspect in the Father’s Day massacre at a Medford pharmacy Wednesday—the same day services were held for two of the four victims.
David Laffer was arrested after more than two dozen officers swarmed his Pitchpine Place home about two miles from the murder scene at Haven Drugs pharmacy on Southaven Avenue, police said. His wife, 29-year-old Melinda Brady, was also arrested.
Laffer was charged with first-degree murder and resisting arrest. Brady was charged with robbery and obstructing government administration. Both will be arraigned Thursday at First District Court in Central Islip.
“I was shocked,” said a neighbor, Trish Bohlert, who attended the couple’s wedding and knew Laffer as a nice guy. “Something must have made him snap.”
Laffer was reportedly hospitalized briefly before being taken to a local precinct where he is being held overnight. His capture concluded an intense three-day manhunt after surveillance cameras in the drug store captured a bearded man in a white cap and sunglasses commit the quadruple homicide before fleeing with a bag full of prescription medication.
The case was the worst of its kind in the region since the 2000 Wendy’s massacre in Queens when two men shot seven people point-blank in the head, killing five. It comes as Long Island is gripped by a heroin and prescription medication abuse epidemic.
While details continued to emerge about Laffer and the events surrounding the murders shortly after the pharmacy opened 10 a.m. Sunday, mourners gathered to remember those lost.
NO STRANGER TO GUNS
Images of Laffer being taken out of his home in handcuffs Wednesday morning gave the first glimpse of an Army veteran who stands accused of taking four lives in cold blood during a robbery that lasted only minutes.
“The guy looked beat up,” said 52-year-old Pete Spano, who was working on a neighboring home when he witnessed the raid take place. “He looked like somebody who was coming off a drug addiction. This is not somebody who started doing drugs last month. This is somebody that’s been out there for awhile and this is the end result.”
Laffer graduated Patchogue-Medford High School in 1995. Records indicate he was stationed at Fort Huachuca in southeast Arizona, home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center where he was reportedly an intelligence analyst prior to returning to Long Island.
His Facebook profile lists his favorite television shows as Dark Skies, a long-since cancelled show about UFO conspiracy theories, and Deadliest Warrior, a combat show on Spike. His only interest was listed as Springfield XD, a type of semi-automatic handgun.
According to the couple’s 2009 wedding announcement in the New York Daily News, Laffer met Brady in 2005 and the two instantly hit it off. He proposed to her at an Islanders game by arranging to pop the question on the large-screen video boards inside Nassau Coliseum.
Since then, the couple appears to have had fallen on hard times. They lived with Laffer’s mother, Pam. Bohlert, the neighbor, said Laffer had lost his job at warehouse two weeks ago.
A TEEN, A MOM, A HUSBAND AND AN ELDER
The raid on Laffer’s home came shortly after a Catholic priest led a group of mourners in prayer outside Haven Drugs—a recurring scene this week.
It also came hours before wakes were held for the two victims who were working that day: Raymond Ferguson, 45, of Centereach, and his assistant, 17-year-old Jennifer Mejia of East Patchogue. Two customers killed were 71-year-old Bryon Sheffield of Medford, who was picking up his wife’s prescriptions, and Jamie Taccetta, 33, of Farmingville.
“She was seriously an angel, she was a sweetheart,” said one of Mejia’s many friends, Christopher Soriano. “She would want the best for everybody. She was so generous and outgoing.”
Mejia was planning to attend her prom at Bellport High School on Wednesday night and was scheduled to graduate Thursday. Instead, she was waked at Robertaccio Funeral Home in Patchogue.
Services will continue between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday. Her funeral will be held 10 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Patchogue followed by her burial at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.
Ferguson, who was looking forward to his 10th anniversary with his wife next weekend, was waked at McCourt and Truden Funeral Home in Farmingdale. Services will continue from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and his funeral will be held 10:45 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Roman Catholic Church in Forrest Hills, Queens.
Taccetta, a mother of two—Maranda, 16, and Caitylin, 5—had been set to be married to her fiancé. She will be buried in her wedding dress.
“She was so full of life. She was so full of life,” Pat Moran, Taccetta’s grandmother, said after slipping a note in between a picture of her granddaughter and string of rosary beads hanging outside the drug store where flowers candles and notes have multiplied in recent days.
“It’s a domino,” she said. “He didn’t just shoot one person and kill them in our family. He wiped out a whole family.”
The wake for Taccetta will be held Thursday and Friday at Moloney’s Lake Funeral Home and Cremation Center in Lake Ronkonkoma from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Her funeral will be held 8 a.m. Saturday at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Ronkonkoma and she will also be buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.
Grief rippled beyond family and friends and spilled into the surrounding communities. Tim Colichio, 51, of Patchogue, was one of many who came to pay his respects at the drug store even though he didn’t know the victims directly.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “Why take four lives for no reason? If you want the drugs, take the drugs and go.”