A Fort Drum soldier and a 16-year-old boy have been charged in the murder and kidnapping of a 20-year-old soldier found buried under snow in northern
Pvt. Jamaal Mellish, 23, and the 16-year-old boy, whose identity has not been released, were charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, second-degree weapons charges in the death of Cpl. Hayden Harris.
Harris’ body was found in Byram Township, according to the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office.
A Fort Drum soldier and a 16-year-old boy have been charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder in the death of a Cpl. Hayden Harris, 20, pictured
Harris was reported missing from Fort Drum on December 18th.
Township firefighters discovered Harris with a gunshot wound to his head the following day on December 19th.
Firefighters were on their annual Santa ride through the township when they discovered his body in a wooded area after reportedly seeing some blood and a pair of shoes.
The Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office coordinated with the Army and New York officials to bring charges.
Mellish, from Brooklyn, is being held in military custody in Oneida County, New York.
Harris was slated to meet Mellish for ‘some type of vehicle exchange’
The two soldiers had met to discuss a disagreement over a 2017 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, according to Gregory Mueller, first assistant prosecutor in Sussex County, New Jersey, where the body was found.
This map shows the distance between Fort Drum in upstate New York to Byram Township, New Jersey where Corporal Harris’ body was found in woods
Authorities believe Mellish abducted Harris, drove him 280 miles in the Chevy Silverado from Watertown to Byram County, New Jersey and killed him. It was not clear why the encounter had turned deadly.
The 16-year-old suspect is being held in a juvenile detention facility, the prosecutor’s office said. No additional information was released on the teen or how the soldier knew the pair.
A motive has not yet been released in the case, and the investigation is continuing.
Harris, of Guys, Tennessee, had been stationed at Fort Drum in New York since July 2019.
Family friend Claire Hallissy said Harris was known in his hometown as ‘Opie’ for his red hair, his infectious smile and his one passion: to join the U.S. Army.
Harris joined the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in and became an infantryman with the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
Before that he trained at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Harris was last seen driving a red 2016 Ford Mustang with Tennessee license plates – from his home state (above) on December 18th. His body was found the following day
Harris left Fort Drum for Watertown, New York to meet fellow soldier Jamaal Mellish, 23, for a ‘vehicle transaction’. Authorities believe Mellish abducted Harris, drove him from Watertown to Byram County, New Jersey and killed him
‘It is well known here that Corporal Harris was a great Soldier, and we share our grief with his friends and Family, I hear again and again how he was also – and most importantly – a really wonderful, caring person,’ Brigadier Gen. Brett Funck, acting 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,’ he added.
Funck praised Harris’ teammates, who reported him missing soon after they didn’t hear back from him.
‘I’m proud of their quick action and hope they can find some comfort in knowing they ultimately helped law enforcement officers located Cpl. Harris and greatly empowered the investigation into his disappearance,’ he said.
Harris was promoted from specialist to corporal following his death.
‘It is well known here that Corporal Harris was a great Soldier, and we share our grief with his friends and Family, I hear again and again how he was also – and most importantly – a really wonderful, caring person,’ Brigadier Gen. Brett Funck, acting commander for Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division, said in a statement
Fort Drum is located near the Canadian border, around 80 miles north of Syracuse.
An investigation into the death of Cpl. Hayden Allen Harris is ongoing and foul play is suspected, the Criminal Investigation Command (CID) said in a
‘We are working very closely with several law enforcement agencies, to include Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, and Sussex County Prosecutors Office, and the Byram Township Police Department on this investigation. We greatly appreciate their work on this ongoing case,’ Chris Grey, Spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command said.
Anyone with information about the case is urged to contact the Fort Drum Army CID Office at (315) 772-9459. Anonymous tips can be submitted on the
Harris joined the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in July 2019 and became an infantryman with the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Before that he trained at Fort Benning, Georgia