Killer in NY pharmacy slaying sentenced to life without parole

A June 23, 2011 file photo shows David Laffer being escorted out of a police station in Patchogue, N.Y.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig/file
David Laffer
AP Photo/Seth Wenig/file

(CBS/AP) RIVERHEAD, N.Y. - A man convicted of killing four people in a Long Island pharmacy during a prescription painkiller robbery was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole.

Pictures: Husband, wife arrested in NY pharmacy murders

David Laffer pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the June holdup at Haven Drugs in Medford. Laffer said he committed the robbery because he had lost his job, and his wife required not only painkillers but also blood pressure medicine, anti-nausea pills and muscle relaxants. He jammed a backpack full of pills after killing the four people, including the pharmacist, two customers and a teenage clerk.

Laffer was sentenced to five consecutive life terms. The five first-degree murder counts reflect the deaths of the four victims in the pharmacy, plus an umbrella charge for multiple murders.

His wife, Melinda Brady, who admitted driving the getaway car, pleaded guilty to robbery charges and was sentenced Thursday to 25 years.

Laffer, a 33-year-old Army veteran, walked into Haven Drugs shortly after 10 a.m. on June 19 and opened fire without announcing a robbery, killing a 45-year-old pharmacist filling in for a colleague celebrating Father's Day, and a 17-year-old store clerk who was due to graduate high school just days later. He then fatally shot two customers who unwittingly walked in on the carnage, authorities said, before filling his backpack with hydrocodone-type painkillers.

The two customers were a 71-year-old retiree picking up medication for his ailing wife - the couple was planning their 50th wedding anniversary in July - and a 33-year-old mother of two who was planning her wedding.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota called the killings among the most gruesome in the history of the county. The 1974 "Amityville Horror" killings in which a man killed six members of his own family was the worst mass killing in Suffolk before the Medford homicides.

Laffer has since said in a jailhouse interview that the first shot went off accidentally and when he realized what happened, he proceeded to kill the others. Prosecutors say Laffer and his wife staked out several pharmacies before settling on Haven Drugs, a tiny family-owned business on an out-of-the-way suburban street.

Laffer has said he expects he will be killed in prison.

"I'm not even under any illusions that I'd make it 15 years," he told Newsday in a September interview.

Complete coverage of the Long Island pharmacy murders on Crimesider