Suspect, wife held in Medford massacre

Suffolk police Wednesday arrest David Laffer, 33, in connection with four killings Sunday in a Medford pharmacy. Videojournalists: Jim Staubitser and Stringer News (June 22, 2011)

Culminating an intense three-day manhunt triggered by a cold-blooded mass murder, Suffolk police Wednesday morning arrested a Medford man in connection with the quadruple murder at a Medford pharmacy, a police source said.

Officers took David Laffer, 33, into custody three days after the shootings at Haven Drugs on Sunday, the source said.

Laffer offered some resistance when he was arrested about 10 a.m. at 30 Pitchpine Place, the source said, and he was taken to Yaphank police headquarters. News 12 Long Island reported that Laffer's wife also was taken away in handcuffs. That could not immediately be confirmed.

Less than two days before the shooting, Laffer had applied for government assistance for the first time, according to a source with knowledge of the case file who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Laffer applied for food stamps online at 8:08 p.m. on Friday, the source said. Laffer typed up the application on mybenefits.ny.gov, said the source. Suffolk County Department of Social Services caseworkers had not acted on the application.

Laffer, who is married without children, would have needed a household income of less than $18,948 to qualify for food stamps, according to the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Officials said surveillance cameras at Haven Drugs captured the events: A thin young man wearing a white baseball cap and sunglasses walking into the store and shooting the pharmacist, Raymond Ferguson, 45; and an employee, Jennifer Mejia, 17, of Medford, a high school senior. The gunman then shot two customers: Bryon Sheffield, 71, of Medford, who was picking up drugs for his wife's heart ailments; and Jaime Taccetta, 33, of Farmingville, a single mother of two.

A beard the shooter had during the shooting was part of an apparent disguise, the source said.

Investigators believe the suspect was motivated by addiction to painkillers. He took no cash from the register, according to a law enforcement source.

Trish Bohlert, a next-door neighbor, said Laffer lived in the house with his wife and mother. She attended his wedding a few years ago, she said.

Bohlert said she was shocked by the arrest and would never have thought that Laffer, who she had not seen in about a week, could commit such a crime.

"He was very nice," said Bohlert, 51. "He was always outside playing with his nieces and nephews. He used to always say 'hello' to us and stop and talk."

Neighbor Michael Pagliuca said he was shocked that Laffer could be involved in such a heinous crime.

"David is a very bright intelligent person," Pagliuca said. "I can't believe this."

Zaida Ayala, who lives near Laffer and considers him a friend, described Laffer as a quiet man who had an interest in the FBI and military. She said she would let her grandchildren play in Laffer's yard, and it was never an issue.

"Quiet, keeps to himself, cleans the yard, mows the lawn," she said. "Never a word, never a curse, totally shocking."

Interviewed at his West Sayville home, Laffer's father-in-law, Charlie Brady, paused and took a deep breath when told of the arrest.

"OK. In that case I better call my wife," Brady said, adding, "After this, no comment."

Following the arrest, Daniel Taccetta, Jaime Taccetta's brother, showed up at Yaphank police headquarters to see the suspect face-to-face.

"I just hope it's him," Daniel Taccetta said, adding that he will follow the case "every step of the way."

On Monday, noting that all the victims were defenseless and shot at close range, Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer called the slayings "one of the most heinous, brutal crimes we've ever experienced."

With all four victims collapsed in the storefront shop, the gunman loaded his backpack with opiate painkillers, police said.

And he walked out.

It was the worst mass shooting in Long Island since Dec. 7, 1993, when Colin Ferguson opened fire on a Long Island Rail Road train, killing six people and wounding 19.

The manhunt for the Medford suspect and pleas by police for any viable information from the public generated hundreds of leads, police said.

Meanwhile, grief and anger rippled through the central Suffolk communities where the victims had lived, as a memorial of flowers and candles sprung up outside the one-story medical office building off Route 112 that houses Haven Drugs.

But, just after noon Wednesday, a police officer took down the electronic sign on Route 112 soliciting tips in the slayings.

With Will Van Sant, Ali Eaves, Michael Amon, Matthew Chayes, Mikala Jamison, Bart Jones, Tania Lopez, VĂ­ctor Manuel Ramos, Patrick Whittle, Olivia Winslow, Jennifer Smith and John Valenti

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