BROOKHAVEN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A somber and bittersweet graduation ceremony was held Thursday night at Bellport High School, where Jennifer Mejia was a student. The 17-year-old was killed Sunday during the shooting rampage at Haven Drugs pharmacy in Medford.
Wearing purple ribbons on their gowns and writing tributes to Mejia on their caps, Bellport’s 2011 graduation class tried to have as normal a graduation as possible despite the tragic circumstances.
“She really was a great person. She wrote in all of our yearbooks and everything. That’s what people remember her by — what she wrote,” one tearful student told 1010 WINS’ Kathleen Maloney.
The students were only left with memories of Mejia of their dear friend and classmate.
While many students broke down in tears at the graduation ceremony held inside the high school gym, Melissa Mosby decided she wouldn’t cry, but chose to remember the good times she had with Mejia.
1010 WINS’ Kathleen Maloney Speaks With Students At The Graduation Ceremony
“Because I had so many happy memories with her, no negatives. So I’d rather smile and remember the good things,” Melissa Mosby said.
But, as CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reports, it was an especially difficult time for Jessica Yanza, who was left to attend graduation without her best friend.
“She was the best person in the world. Honestly, she put everyone’s happiness before her own — everybody’s happiness,” Yanza said.
Mejia’s pictures was displayed prominently at the podium and white balloons were released at the beginning of the graduation ceremony in her honor. Before the ceremony, Mejia’s diploma was given to her family and placed beside the casket at a funeral home in Patchogue.
Mejia’s funeral will be held on Friday morning. She will be buried in the prom dress she bought, but never wore to the dance.
Meanwhile, in Ronkonkoma, at the wake for victim Jaime Taccetta, the single mom’s two daughters and fiance were mourning her loss.
“Her fiancee is just devastated and broken hearted,” said Felicia Wilcox, Taccetta’s aunt.
Earlier Thursday, a disheveled looking David Laffer pleaded not guilty on first-degree murder charges in the shooting deaths of Mejia, Taccetta, pharmacist Raymond Ferguson and Bryon Sheffield.
Assistant District Attorney John Collins called the shootings “the most cold-blooded robbery-homicide in Suffolk County history.” Laffer said nothing at his arraignment. His lawyer pleaded not guilty for him. A judge ordered Laffer be held without bail.
“He did it. He did all of this,” Laffer’s wife Melinda Brady, said as she was being led into a police car at Suffolk police headquarters early Thursday morning. “He was doing it because he lost his job and I was sick. I’m sorry he did all of this.”
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said he hoped the arrests will bring some sort of closure for the victims’ families.
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