JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After a military veteran who had his throat slashed in a robbery in April died Wednesday, his grief-stricken family told News4Jax that "no amount of justice" would be enough for them.
Melvin Clark, 86, was found lying in a ditch on Maxville Macclenny Highway by a good Samaritan, who called for help and stayed with Clark until he was airlifted to a hospital.
Two men and a woman have been charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and robbery in the attack on Clark. All three have pleaded not guilty and are being held without bond.
It's possible those charges will be upgraded now that Clark has died.
“There's no amount of justice that could be done,” Clark's stepdaughter, Tamara Damico, said. “Even the highest sentence.”
Douglas Cercy, 34, Jennifer Schulte, 37, and Ray Jones, 21, were caught at a Boca Raton bus station after tips and the discovery of Clark's stolen SUV led investigators to South Florida.
“All of this happened for a few hundred dollars and a ride out of town, just so that they could go to jail,” Clark's granddaughter, Shannon Rivera, said. “He has family. He has grandchildren. He has great-grandkids. He had a lot of family. Now that's all taken away from us because of $300 and a stupid ride out of town.”
According to the arrest warrants for the three, Schulte somehow got Clark’s phone number and called him from the Hospitality Inn on 103rd Street on the Westside. Clark drove there, and that’s where he was kidnapped, police said.
Clark's loved ones said he would never talk about why he went to the hotel.
“Whenever you'd try to ask, he would change the subject and pretend he didn't hear you,” granddaughter Nichole Dehn said. “He didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want to push him. I didn't want to stress him.”
Clark was forced to drive to an ATM at Country Federal Credit Union on Lima Street to withdraw money. The warrant says Cercy had a fake gun pointed at Clark.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office obtained surveillance video from the ATM, and investigators were able to identify Schulte from it.
An hour later, Clark was found on a road in the Maxville area with his throat cut. Police said his clothes were completely soaked, making it appear he had pulled himself out of a ditch and onto the dirt road.
Schulte told police that after forcing Clark to withdraw the money, the three told him to drive west on I-10, and then Cercy directed him to get off the interstate and drive down a dirt road.
She told police Clark was forced out of the car and told to get on his knees.
She said she could hear him begging for his life before he went limp and she saw blood coming from his neck.
Schulte told investigators she didn't know whether it was Cercy or Jones who slit Clark's throat.
Clark, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, progressed slowly and was able to whisper after the attack, but never fully recovered from his injuries.
“He would want to give up in therapy, and we were, like, 'Come on, Grandpa.' We were trying to be his cheerleaders, and he would keep going,” Rivera said. “He tried. He tried as hard as he could.”
His loved ones said they'll remember his love for his family, his sense of humor and his love for the Jaguars.
“I thought he was going to sleep,” Dehn said. “I didn't know it would be the last time I saw him.”
Clark's family said he was a healthy man and they thought he would recover from his wounds. He was supposed to go home from rehab a week from Thursday, and the news of his death caught them off guard.
“For him to suffer three months, for it to happen anyway,” Rivera said. “I'm just thankful he didn't die in that ditch.”
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