Jacksonville, FL — The two remaining suspects accused of a brutal kidnapping and attack on an elderly Neptune Beach veteran, which ultimately led to his death, have now pleaded guilty.
Douglas Cercy, Ray Jones, and Jennifer Schulte were all arrested in April 2017 for the crime spree. Schulte pleaded guilty in November 2017, but the cases against Cercy and Jones continued. Now, they have both pleaded guilty as well.
86-year-old Melvin Clark was reported missing by his wife in April 2017, when he didn't return from running some errands. Clark was later found on the far Westside, off Maxville-Macclenny Highway, where he had been left with his throat slashed. While Clark survived the initial attack, he spent months in the hospital and died in July. Charges against all three suspects were upgraded to reflect what was now considered a murder.
Investigators say the suspects forced Clark to drive them to an ATM in Baldwin to withdraw money, then continue driving west on I-10, before exiting and heading down a dirt road. They were allegedly showing the victim a fake gun at the time. The suspects then forced Clark out of the car and off to the side, where they attacked him with a knife, according to the affidavit for arrest warrant. The trio then fled in Clark’s car, which was later tracked down in Miami-Dade County. Police were able to link the three suspects to that vehicle, and then found them at a bus station in Boca Raton.
The affidavit for arrest warrant for the suspects showed Cercy allegedly called his sister and admitted to forcing an elderly man to withdraw money from an ATM, cutting his throat, and stealing his car with two other people. He said they were fleeing the area because he feared he had been seen on surveillance, according to the affidavit. That court record says the three suspects were generally seen on the ATM surveillance, and that helped lead to their identification.
Schulte told investigators that Cercy orchestrated the robbery plan.
Jones and Cercy had been charged with first degree murder, kidnapping with a weapon, and armed robbery. They are both now pleading guilty to second degree murder, kidnapping with a weapon, and armed robbery.
The State Attorney’s Office had been seeking the death penalty in this case for Jones and Cercy. They are withdrawing that notice of intent, as part of the plea agreement. A prosecutor tells our partner Action News Jax that decision accounts for the suspects accepting responsibility, the wishes of the victim’s family, and one suspect having a mental illness.
Instead, Jones and Cercy will serve between 40 years and life in prison.
Schulte had been charged with second degree murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery. She pleaded guilty to second degree murder and kidnapping. Her sentencing date is currently scheduled to be set on July 30th.