Two men facing the death penalty for the brutal robbery and murder of an 86-year-old veteran admitted their crimes Tuesday in exchange for a plea deal.
Ray Landis Jones and Doug Cercy acknowledged kidnapping and killing Melvin Clark in April 2017.
As part of the deal, the two men no longer face the death penalty and will instead face a sentence of 40 years to life in prison. Circuit Judge Angela Cox will formally pronounce sentence in late July.
Clark was a veteran of two branches of the military, a beloved grandfather, an adventurer who went river rafting into his mid 70s.
But on April 8, 2017, Jones and Cercy, kidnapped him and forced him to drive to a bank where he withdrew $200.
They then drove him to a remote hunting road, cut his throat and left him for dead. Clark pulled himself out of a water-filled ditch and onto the side of the road before he was spotted. He died three months later as a result of his injuries.
A codefendant in the case, Jennifer Schulte, pleaded guilty in 2017.
According to our media partners at the Florida Times-Union, Clark's wife reported him missing to Neptune Beach police when he did not return from running errands.
Clark’s stolen Honda CRV was located the next day in Miami-Dade County and an April 10 tip led police to arrest Douglas Harrison Cercy, 34; Jennifer Marie Schulte, 37; and Raymond Landis Jones, 21, the following evening.
Prosecutor Mark Caliel said the family wanted to avoid a trial and supports the plea deal. Speaking to First Coast News in 2017, Clark's granddaughter Shannon said the family expected nothing less than a life sentence.
"You took a man’s life for you to spend your life in prison -- hopefully! Hopefully -- because that’s what they deserve. I hope grandpa gets justice."