Defendants plead guilty to slashing veteran's throat, avoid death penalty

Men who slashed veterans throat change plea

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two men pleaded guilty to kidnapping an elderly veteran, forcing him to withdraw $200 from a bank, then slashing his throat and leaving him to die.

Ray Jones and Douglas Cercy originally pleaded not guilty after their arrests in 2017.


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Jones and Cercy no longer face the death penalty after taking plea deals from the state attorney’s Office.

Mark Caliel, director of the Targeted Prosecution Unit at the state attorney’s office, told Action News Jax the defendants’ acceptance of responsibility, the family’s wishes, and Cercy’s mental illness factored into the agreement to take the death penalty off the table.

Cercy and Jones were also allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder instead of first degree.

They also pleaded guilty to kidnapping with a weapon and armed robbery.

They both face 40 years to life in prison.

Cercy revealed in court Tuesday that he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Their pleas come two years after prosecutors say Jones, Cercy, and Jennifer Schulte orchestrated a plan to kidnap and rob 86-year-old veteran Melvin Clark.

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The state attorney’s office says Schulte stayed in the car while Jones and Cercy forced Clark onto his knees on a remote road and slashed his throat.

Schulte entered her guilty pleas two years ago.

“Honestly there is no amount of justice that can be done, even at the highest sentence,” Clark’s stepdaughter Tamara Damico said after Clark’s death in 2017.

Family members were not in court Tuesday, but they told Action News Jax they plan to speak at Jones’ and Cercy’s sentencing hearings later this summer.