JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A good Samaritan was out for a day of hunting over the weekend when he found an elderly man with his throat slashed lying on the side of a highway and then aided him in getting help.
Justin Schweckendieck told News4Jax on Tuesday that he acted and did what anyone else would do.
"I decided to take the long way around and did a joyride through the woods and came across the man," Schweckendieck said. "I didn't know if it was a setup, if someone was in the bushes, waiting for me to come up, or if it was a setup. But it wasn't. It was horrible."
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said 86-year-old Melvin Clark was found just after 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon lying on Maxville Macclenny Highway, a dirt road west of U.S. 301.
Clark, a Navy and Air Force veteran, had stab wounds, his clothes were completely soaked and he appeared to have pulled himself out of a ditch and onto the dirt road, police said.
Schweckendieck said he was in the woods, looking for a hunting spot, when he first saw the man.
"I got closer and he couldn't talk. And I saw all the blood around his neck and thought, 'This guy is seriously injured.' He needed help now," Schweckendieck said. "I ran around, back to the truck, got on the phone with 911. They didn't have an address for him. So I told them the best I could do was go to the nearest road and flag them down."
Schweckendieck then waited and watched as paramedics worked frantically. He stayed until Clark was airlifted to Orange Park Medical Center with life-threatening injuries.
"It's tragic. It's horrible. There are really no words for it," he said. "It's just a terrible action that happened."
Investigators said Clark was reported missing about three hours earlier. His wife told police that her husband had left their Neptune Beach home to run errands.
Clark's black 2005 Honda CRV was not found with him. It was entered in the federal stolen vehicle data base.
About 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Miami-Dade police notified JSO that the CRV had been found in their jurisdiction.
As of Tuesday, Clark was still recovering in the hospital. Family members told News4Jax that Clark underwent surgery, which went well, and he's in stable condition in the intensive care unit, but he is still unable to speak.
"I just pray for him making a good recovery and I pray for his family for sure. (I'm) keeping them in my prayers," Schweckendieck said.
Clark was described as a high-risk patient because of his injuries and his age.
Police are trying to find out who slashed his throat, dumped him in a water-filled ditch miles from his home and stole his SUV.
The Sheriff's Office is asking anyone who knows anything that could help in the investigation to call 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous and receive a possible reward of up to $3,000, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.