The youngest of four victims of a horrific pharmacy shooting that rocked a suburban Long Island community was laid to rest today.
Seventeen-year-old Jennifer Mejia was buried in the dress she never got to wear to prom. She was killed days before the dance.
Mejia was a clerk at the drug store where gunfire erupted over the weekend in a botched robbery by a man seeking painkillers. She died along with pharmacist Raymond Ferguson, 45, of Centereach, and two customers, Bryon Sheffield, 71, of Medford, and Jamie Taccetta, a 33-year-old woman from Farmingville.
Towards the end of her funeral Mass, the priest asked her Bellport classmates to come forward and say goodbye at her coffin, according to Newsday. About 75 students, wearing caps and gowns, came forward.
"She had a golden heart. She was a great girl," a classmate told Newsday.
Another student, identified as Peter Chokly, 18, defined the day for all, saying, "It's basically her funeral and graduation at the same time."
Mejia had plans to be a doctor. She worked at the pharmacy in Medford, on Long Island, to make some extra money for college in the fall.
Mejia's funeral took place at 10 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church in Patchogue, a day after she was supposed to graduate from high school.
Classmates with pained faces released white balloons in honor of Mejia during last night's graduation at Bellport High School. Graduates also wore purple bracelets in her honor and observed a moment of silence during the ceremony.
Despite the milestone they reached that day, many of the seniors walking into the auditorium admitted not feeling the kind of joy usually associated with the occasion.
At the same time at a nearby funeral home in Ronkonkoma, friends and relatives of Taccetta gathered for her wake. Those who gathered in her memory were many of the same people who had planned to attend her wedding in the fall.
Taccetta's aunt, Felicia Wilcox, spoke of the pain of seeing her young niece in a casket in the dress she was to wear the day of her wedding.
"He took away so much from so many," Wilcox said of the gunman.
David Laffer, 33, has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths. Police arrested him at his home Wednesday. Laffer, whom police have described as showing no remorse for his alleged crimes, pleaded not guilty to those charges in court on Thursday.
Laffer's wife, Melinda, was charged with robbery for her involvement in the drug store heist. She was also charged with obstructing governmental administration.