Soldier And Juvenile Charged With Kidnapping, Murdering Fellow Serviceman

Authorities have charged a U.S. Army soldier and a 16-year-old boy with murdering a fellow soldier who was found shot dead in New Jersey.

The body of 20-year-old Corporal Hayden Harris was discovered by police in a wooded area of Byram Township, New Jersey, on December 19.

Harris, of Guys, Tennessee, was last heard from as he headed from the Fort Drum base near the Canadian border to Watertown, New York, for a vehicle transaction, the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Command said.

In a news release on Monday, Sussex County Prosecutor Francis A. Koch said Specialist Jamaal Mellish and a 16-year-old boy, who was not identified, have been charged in connection with Harris's death.

As many of you are aware, our town has become the site of an unbelievable and senseless crime. On Saturday, December 19th, 2020 the body of U.S. Army soldier Corporal Hayden Harris was located in the...

Investigators determined Harris and Mellish were going to meet for a vehicle transaction, the Byram Township Police Department said.

Mellish was supposed to exchange a Ford Mustang with Harris for a Chevy pickup truck, according to the police department.

Sussex County First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller told the New Jersey Herald that a dispute may have led Mellish to abduct Harris.

According to the newspaper, Mellish forced Harris to travel to his hometown of Brooklyn, New York before driving him to New Jersey. Mueller said investigators believe Mellish shot Harris dead in Byram Township. A juvenile was in the truck, he said.

Mellish, 23, is chaired with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, felony murder, possession of a firearm without a permit, possession of a firearm for unlawful purposes and suppressing evidence.

The juvenile is charged with first-degree kidnapping, felony murder, possession of a handgun without a permit and possession of a firearm for unlawful purposes.

Mellish is currently being held in military custody under pretrial confinement in Oneida County, New York and the juvenile is in custody in a juvenile detention facility, Koch's office said.

Harris joined the Army in March 2019 and was an infantryman with the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. He joined the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in July 2019 after training at Fort Benning, Georgia.

In his short time with the Army, he earned the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

Harris was posthumously promoted from specialist to corporal and awarded the Army Commendation Medal.

"We are devastated," Brigadier Gen. Brett Funck, acting senior commander for Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division, said in a statement. "His death is a tremendous loss for his loved ones, this division and our nation."

In a statement on Christmas Eve, Byram Township police said officers met with Harris's family on December 22.

"We will forever be touched by the devastation this event has caused them," the statement said. "Instead of planning for a joyful holiday season they are planning funeral services for their child. A child who chose an honorable path and who from all accounts was a caring young man already labeled as an outstanding soldier in a short period of time."

It continued: "As a department we will maintain an unwavering commitment to this investigation until the perpetrators of this horrendous crime are brought to justice."

The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Lt. Nicholas Elmo at the Sussex County Prosecutor's Office at 973-383-1570 or Det. Robert Tierney at the Byram Township Police Department at 973-347-4008.

Hayden Harris
The body of 20-year-old Corporal Hayden Harris was discovered by police in a wooded area of Byram Township, New Jersey on December 19. U.S. Army/Byram Township Police Department