NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. - An elderly veteran left for dead after a robbery and kidnapping back in April has died.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, 86-year-old Melvin Clark had his throat slashed and had to climb out of a water-filled ditch on Jacksonville's Westside.
Three people have been arrested for that incident: 34-year-old Douglas Cercy, 37-year-old Jennifer Schulte and 21-year-old Ray Jones. They've been charged with armed robbery, kidnapping and attempted murder.
Step-daughter Tamara Damico and Melvin's granddaughters Nicole Dehn and Shannon Rivera were all set to bring Melvin home in less than a week before he passed unexpectedly Wednesday night.
"I remember I kissed his forehead because he was tired so I thought it would let him sleep, but I didn't know it was going to be the last time I saw him," Dehn said.
Now they're left to remember Clark's sense of humor and adventurous spirit. He went river rafting in his mid-70s. Clark served around the world in the Air Force and Navy from 1947 to 1971.
"He was amazing. He was one of the best men I've known in my life. He was like my dad, like took place when my dad wouldn't be there. I could always count on my grandpa, he would always be there for me," Rivera said.
Most people don't use the phrase "gone too soon" for someone in their mid-80s, but Melvin was supposed to live longer.
The family believes the attack he suffered almost four months ago, which consumed him in traches and apparatuses, was just too much.
"He doesn't want to talk about it, whenever we would try he was really quiet, never really mentioned it," Dehn said.
The family said they want those responsible to pay for their crimes.
"You took a great man's life for you to spend your life in prison, hopefully. I hope that grandpa gets justice and I'm going to fight," said Rivera.
There's still no official cause of death for Melvin Clark. That won't be determined until the autopsy results are back.
The family is still planning out his funeral.
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