To the low, somber moan of bagpipes the family and friends of Jaime Taccetta milled into St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Ronkonkoma Saturday morning to mourn and pay their final respects to the slain mother of two, one of four victims whose lives were cut short in a brutal massacre at a Medford pharmacy on Father’s Day.
The 33-year-old was planning to be married later this year. Her body was dressed in her wedding gown.
Taccetta’s funeral comes a day after the untimely burial of 17-year-old Jennifer Mejia, of East Patchogue, gunned down just days before her high school graduation, and private services for Bryon Sheffield, 71, who would have celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary next month. Also Saturday was the funeral of pharmacist Raymond Ferguson, 45.
Earlier this week, Suffolk County Police arrested 33-year-old David Laffer and wife Melinda Brady, 29, for the slayings. Laffer has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bail. Brady is charged with robbery and obstructing governmental administration, with more likely.
Punctuating the void left by Taccetta was the arrival of her young children in a tow truck driven by her father following the hearse. Taccetta’s grandmother, Pat Moran, wept alongside her casket.
“What a tragedy, and so senseless,” said Gloria Rochetta, shaking her head in shock on her way into the church. “And her children left without a mother.”
“There’s no way to describe it,” said a man as he too approached. “It’s just senseless.”
“Senseless and tragic for all concerned,” said Debbie Manzella Johnson, cousin of Taccetta’s fiancé, James Manzella, who had been parked in front of Haven Pharmacy that fateful morning and had been first to discover the carnage. “It’s a double tragedy for him.”
Inside St. Joseph’s, Father Michael Maffeo commented on the high-spirited and effervescent nature of Taccetta.
“She was full of life,” he told the 100-plus in attendance. “Jaime loved life.”
As the procession slowly meandered out of the church, Tim Fitzpatrick, a member of a local pipe band, resuscitated a lamenting “Amazing Grace.” Mourners made their way into their vehicles to follow Taccetta’s casket to a nearby cemetery as her father, close behind, held down the tow truck’s horn for several seconds.
A loud, bellowing cry pierced the air.