The wife of the accused Medford pharmacy killer was indicted on a charge of first-degree robbery, but avoided a murder charge because prosecutors can't prove she knew in advance that the robbery could turn deadly, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said Tuesday.
Prosecutors said Melinda Brady joined David Laffer in planning the Father's Day robbery that left four people dead, drove the getaway car and helped him fashion an alibi. A search of Laffer's Medford home last week turned up more evidence buried in a yard and hidden in the false bottom of a box, Spota said.
The new charge against Brady -- upgraded from third-degree robbery -- carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Though Brady, 29, implicated herself during questioning by detectives in the plot to steal thousands of painkillers from Haven Drugs, she said the shootings were not part of the plan, according to authorities.
"We cannot legally prove that she was aware that he had armed himself with a deadly weapon or that he intended to kill the people in the drugstore," Spota said after Brady's arraignment, explaining why she was not charged with second-degree murder.
Spota said he explained the grand jury's decision to victims' family members, several of whom watched Brady's arraignment Tuesday in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, where Brady's Legal Aid attorney, Bryan Browns, entered a not-guilty plea.
"They were upset, as they should be," Spota said. "I also told the families that if Mr. Laffer is convicted, he will never see the light of day, and that we will be seeking very significant incarceration for Ms. Brady."
Laffer, 33, indicted on five counts of first-degree murder, faces life in prison if convicted.
Laffer is charged with killing pharmacist Raymond Ferguson, 45; drugstore employee Jennifer Mejia, 17; and customers Jaime Taccetta, 33; and Bryon Sheffield, 71, in the robbery of about 10,000 hydrocodone pills to feed the couple's appetite for the potent painkiller drugs.
Ray Malone, an uncle of Taccetta, said he was "very disappointed" that Brady won't face a murder charge, but understood the legal reasoning behind the decision and praised Spota for being "very open and very caring" with the victims' families.
Spota said investigators searched the Laffer home again last week and found 1,000 hydrocodone pills in the false bottom of a box from a kitchen blender. Another 1,000 pills were found previously in an upstairs closet. The defendants flushed the rest of the pills down the toilet, he said.
The search also turned up the barrel of the disassembled murder weapon, a .45 caliber pistol registered to Laffer, buried in a side yard, Spota said. Spota said Brady helped Laffer with his attempt to form an alibi by going with him to a Hess gas station less than an hour after the shooting. By then, he had shaved off his stubble, which she had darkened with mascara to resemble a beard as part of his disguise.