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New York man in court on charges he killed four at pharmacy

By Aman Ali

CENTRAL ISLIP, New York (Reuters) - A Long Island man pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges he shot and killed four people at a pharmacy while stealing pills for himself and his wife, in what prosecutors called "the most cold blooded robbery and homicide" the county has ever seen.

David Laffer, 33, of Medford, New York, is accused of murder and resisting arrest for the deadly heist last Sunday that took the lives of two employees and two customers.

Police say Laffer was stealing prescription painkillers from the Haven Pharmacy with a handgun as his wife waited outside as getaway driver.

Laffer and his wife were believed to be addicted to painkillers, and Laffer recently lost his job as a factory clerk and his health insurance coverage that helped pay for the pills they both took, police said.

Killed were pharmacy employees Raymond Ferguson, 45, and Jennifer Mejia, 17, and customers Bryon Sheffield, 71, and Jamie Taccetta, 33.

Taccetta was engaged to be married, and police said her fiancé was waiting outside the pharmacy when she was shot.

Mejia was a high school student, set to graduate this week. She was working the Sunday shift to fill in for a co-worker.

Taccetta's family told police they planned to bury her in her wedding dress, and Mejia's family were burying her in her high school prom dress.

"In my 30 years, this is the most cold blooded robbery and homicide case that I have seen in this county," Suffolk County prosecutor John Collins said outside the courtroom.

Laffer pleaded not guilty in Suffolk County Court to charges of murder and resisting arrest.

His wife Melinda Brady, 29, has been charged with third-degree robbery and obstructing governmental administration. She was supposed to have been arraigned as well but was taken to a hospital for an unspecified preexisting medical condition, authorities said.

Laffer was unprovoked when he allegedly shot the four people, he did not announce that he was staging a robbery and he had no criminal background, Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said at a news conference.

Dormer added that Laffer has "shown no remorse" when questioned by authorities.

Laffer and Brady fled the pharmacy, and a massive manhunt lead to his arrest on Wednesday inside the couple's home.

Dormer said police broke down the door of the house, where they encountered an "extremely violent" Laffer.

"Officers had to use force to take him into custody," Dormer said. He added that the couple "were obviously under the influence of narcotics."

Prosecutors said several pieces of evidence linked Laffer to the crime scene. He has a registered 45-caliber handgun that police recovered from his home that is consistent with bullets found at the pharmacy, and his fingerprints were found on a piece of paper on the pharmacy counter.

"Despite the defendant's best efforts to wipe the prints from the scene, that piece of paper became dislodged during the robbery and was found (near one of the bodies)," Collins said.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)

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