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David Laffer sentenced to life in prison

Photo of David Laffer from the Suffolk County

Photo of David Laffer from the Suffolk County Sheriff. (September 23, 2011) Credit: Handout

David Laffer listened blankly Thursday to the sorrow and anger of the families of the four people he executed in a Medford pharmacy before a Suffolk judge vowed to try to make the rest of his life as miserable as possible in prison.

Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson sentenced Laffer to four consecutive life terms for first-degree murder. Another life term for a fifth count of murder, and four 25-year sentences for criminal use of a firearm will be served concurrently.

Hudson said he would recommend that the state Department of Corrections put Laffer, 33, in solitary confinement and deny him all privileges because he believes Laffer poses "a heightened risk to the safety of the corrections officers ... ."

"I will use the law to its fullest to punish you as severely as I possibly can," Hudson told Laffer, who stood impassively before him. "You demonstrate an unnatural viciousness, despite your calm exterior."

The imposition of sentence came after victims' family members spoke for two hours about the damage left behind by the murders, and after Hudson had sentenced Laffer's wife, Melinda Brady, 29, to the maximum of 25 years in prison for her role.

The sentencing came almost six months after Laffer walked into Haven Drugs on Father's Day to rob it of painkillers and other drugs for his wife. But besides stealing about 10,000 pills, Laffer methodically shot and killed pharmacist Raymond Ferguson, 45; drugstore employee Jennifer Mejia, 17; and customers Jaime Taccetta, 33, and Bryon Sheffield, 71.

Laffer, standing erect and still in his green prison uniform, spoke for a few minutes, saying he could not explain the "horrific acts" he committed and that he deserved no mercy. "To ask forgiveness is a selfish act, so I won't," he said.

"If there is a discussion of doctor shopping and prescription pill abuse, then perhaps some good can come from this," he added.

Family members were unsparing. "No one likes him, not even his so-called wife," said Taccetta's grandmother, Mary Moran, dressed in purple, Taccetta's favorite color. "He is a dark, hell-bound soul. They were like diseased rats, scouting the drugstores of Medford."

She added: "I wish you an eternity of misery, and I'm sure you will have it. You are the devil's boy."

Taccetta's mother, Patricia Taccetta, said: "I hope that you, David Laffer, live to be 100 years old and every minute of every day you have to think about what you took from us."

Attorney John Ray, of Miller Place, spoke in court on behalf of Taccetta's daughters, Miranda, 16 and Kaitlyn, 6.

He told Laffer that life in prison would not be bad, but worse will come. "When the time comes for real justice -- not just human justice as can be done here -- you will be in the unquenchable fire with the other beasts," Ray said.

Sheffield's daughter, Laura Bustamante, spoke of the devastation her father's killing had, coming the day after her mother returned home from heart surgery. He had gone to to get medication for her.

"Even after a half century together, Bryon could still make our mom laugh at all his jokes, even if she heard them many times before, and now she will never hear them again," Bustamante said.

Assistant District Attorney James Chalifoux read a statement by Mejia's younger sister on behalf of that family, who did not come to court. Neither did Ferguson's family.

"Jennifer served God in church and out of church," wrote her sister, whom Chalifoux would not name. "The most beautiful person was taken from us in the most gruesome way imaginable on June 19, 2011 -- Sunday, the Lord's day, most of all Father's Day."

Chalifoux said the crime's horror touched everyone for a simple reason. "It could have been anybody," he said. "Anybody who walked into that pharmacy was going to be murdered by David Laffer."

Throughout the statements, Laffer looked steadily at the speakers. Even his attorney, Eric Naiburg, of Central Islip, was struck by his client's lack of reaction.

"Not a twitch," Naiburg said. "I never saw anything like it, in all my years."

But Brady, wearing a blue blouse, was in tears almost as soon as she walked into the courtroom. "I'm so sorry for the loss of your loved ones," she said. "That awful day will haunt me for the rest of my life, as I know it does you."

Her attorney, Bryan Browns, of the Legal Aid Society, asked Hudson to consider her remorse. Chalifoux recommended a sentence of 241/2 years, saying she offered "nothing but excuses" for helping plan the robbery and concoct an alibi. "You are more sorry for yourself than for your victims," Hudson told her. "I ask you, what is your self-pity against their grief?"

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