Victims' families learn of Laffer's arrest

Rene Mejia, talks about loss of his daughter,

Rene Mejia, talks about loss of his daughter, Jennifer Mejia, 18, outside his home in East Patchogue. (June 19, 2011) (Credit: James Carbone)

It helps, but not enough.

The families of the four victims gunned down on a quiet Father's Day in Medford say they're glad police have a suspect, David Laffer, in custody.

But the arrest won't bring back the single mother, the spirited daughter, the boisterous grandfather and the tender husband they lost.

The milestones that awaited Raymond Ferguson, 45, Jennifer Mejia, 17, Bryon Sheffield, 71, and Jaime Taccetta, 33, now have been replaced with mourning.

 

BRYON SHEFFIELD

Bryon Sheffield's spot on a small sofa was empty yesterday afternoon as relatives huddled in the family room to watch news reports of police arresting a man suspected of his killing.

His wife, Sheila Sheffield, tried to contain her sobs as a TV reporter said her husband was killed getting her medication.

She cried as she talked of how detectives brought her his wedding band. Sheffield was her high school sweetheart. The couple would have been married 50 years in July.

Their children were planning a surprise party. But now, the new widow is overcome with grief.

"Why did he have to take them?" said Sheffield, 69, of the shooter. "Who's he to take a life?"

Despite their sadness, relatives expressed relief at the investigation's progress.

"I know they've been working around the clock," said Brian Sheffield, 48, the victim's son. "They have been tireless, and we really appreciate it."

Relatives laughed as they remembered the 71-year-old grandfather of five. The family prankster, he would hide and scare people walking down a hallway.

A retired businessman, he owned gas stations and auto repair shops in Patchogue, Yaphank and Jamaica, Queens.

He often went fishing on Long Island waters with his younger brother, Jeff Sheffield.

Family members say Sheffield was a competitive video-game player. As they looked through his belongings, relatives found he had marked several cases of one of his favorite video games, Call of Duty, with white stickers where his handwriting proclaimed: "I won."

"My father was a child at heart, and we loved him for it," said his daughter, Laura Bustamante, 49. "He wanted to sit at the kids' table when we came here for dinner and they wanted him there."

Relatives will hold a private funeral service for Sheffield.

The afternoon before the slaying, Sheffield was excited that his wife had returned home, following triple-bypass heart surgery the previous Monday.

The family was going to gather at their Medford home to celebrate Father's Day, but when his son arrived that morning, he realized his father had not returned.

Brian Sheffield went to the pharmacy to check on him and found a crime scene.

A detective pulled him aside, saying, "I need to speak to you."

As Sheffield listened, he said that he could not stop looking at his dad's truck in the parking lot.

Bustamante called the killings incomprehensible.

"It's just something that's a hundred times worse than one can say," she said. "There are no words."

 

JENNIFER MEJIA

Jennifer Mejia should have been at her prom Wednesday night.

But what was meant to be a teenage rite of passage, instead found her family grappling with the arrest of her suspected killer.

Lesly Mejia said shortly before Jennifer's wake Wednesday that the last image she had of her sister was Jennifer posing in her prom dress Saturday night.

"She was really like an angel on earth," Lesly said. "She was perfect."

Jennifer Mejia's loved ones packed the Robertaccio Funeral Home parking lot in Patchogue, their cars spilling into an overflow lot and onto the streets.

Lesly Mejia, 16, learned of Laffer's arrest as she was leaving her Medford home for her sister's wake. She said the news left her feeling hollow.

"It's not going to bring back my sister," she said. "God will know what to do with him."

Lesly Mejia said her sister worked at Haven Drugs for two years and sent her first paycheck to her grandmother in El Salvador.

Wednesday night, some of Mejia's Bellport High School classmates stopped at Haven Drugs in her memory on their way to the prom. They brought the corsage Mejia would have worn that night, placing it on the pavement in front of the drugstore along with the flowers, candles and cards that have been left at a makeshift memorial.

 

RAYMOND FERGUSON

Viedya Sabrina Quail-Ferguson was late to her husband Raymond's wake in Farmingdale Wednesday because she was listening to news reports about the arrest.

She said friends were calling saying, "They got him." A short time later, a Suffolk detective phoned.

"It was great to have the confirmation," Quail-Ferguson said as she fiddled with a black and white silk scarf draped over the jacket.

While "there is no such thing as closure," Quail-Ferguson said she was relieved to learn police took someone into custody.

She said that while others say the suspect deserves death, she feels differently.

"I don't wish him harm," she said.

But she doesn't want her husband's killer to go free, saying she would be at every parole hearing. "I can't imagine him ever seeing another street again," she said.

As the Centereach couple prepared to celebrate their 10th anniversary, Quail-Ferguson said they reached a point where "we could start enjoying our life" after years of paying dues.

"We worked hard in our 20s and 30s on our education and established our careers to now be able to give our families the best," she said.

Ashley Culoso, 21, of Medford, used to work as a pharmacy assistant at Haven Drugs. She said she knew Ferguson and was heartbroken by his death.

"He was a wonderful guy that brought light to everybody that he was around," she said.

Quail-Ferguson said Vinoda Kudchadkar, who owns the pharmacy, came to her husband's wake at McCourt & Trudden Funeral Home.

"I feel very bad for him because he takes it personally," she said. "He feels very responsible. He's not. He is an amazing person. I told him, 'It's not your fault.' "

 

JAIME TACCETTA

Jaime Taccetta's family got little comfort when they visited Laffer's home Wednesday afternoon.

The Farmingville woman's 16-year-old daughter, Miranda, and Miranda's father rushed to the scene after they heard police were making an arrest. "We just wanted to see if it was true," said James Malone, Taccetta's ex-husband. Asked if the arrest would give her some closure, Miranda said, "Yeah."

Pat Moran, Taccetta's grandmother, made a quick appearance at Laffer's house. She was clearly shaken.

"You're the devil," a tearful Moran said of Laffer. "And God always wins out."

Taccetta's brother, Daniel, 30, of Brookhaven, arrived at police headquarters Wednesday morning hoping to see Laffer.

He said he's pleased with the arrest, but it doesn't undo his loss. "You know what?" he said. "I think he should serve for every life he took. That's what his sentence should be: solitary confinement."

The crime has been "hell" on his family, he said. "My mother's torn up," he said. "She can't even talk right now."
 

Services set for Medford shooting victims:

JENNIFER MEJIA

Thursday. Wake at the Robertaccio Funeral Home on Route 112 in Patchogue between 2 and 4 p.m. and 7 and 9 p.m.

Friday. The funeral Mass will be at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church in Patchogue at 10 a.m., with burial following at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.

RAYMOND FERGUSON

Saturday. Funeral Mass at 10:45 a.m. at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Roman Catholic Church, 110-06 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills, Queens.

JAIME TACCETTA

Thursday and Friday. Viewing at Moloney's Lake Funeral Home and Cremation Center, 132 Ronkonkoma Ave., Lake Ronkonkoma, from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. There will be an 8 p.m. service at the funeral home.

Saturday. Funeral Mass at 9 a.m. at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 45 Church St., Ronkonkoma, followed by burial at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Coram.

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