Missing Army Cpl. Hayden Harris found dead in New Jersey after 'vehicle exchange' with fellow soldier, officials say
Cpl. Hayden Harris
BYRAM, N.J. - A US Army soldier who was missing at Fort Drum, New York State, was found dead in New Jersey and a fellow soldier was taken into custody in connection with his death.
Hayden Harris's body was found Saturday afternoon in a wooded area in the Byram parish, Sussex County's first assistant prosecutor Gregory Mueller said. U.S. Army officials released few details in a press release on Sunday afternoon beyond confirming Harris' death.
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Harris was last seen between 8 p.m. December 17 and 6:30 a.m. December 18, according to army officials.
Mueller said Harris was meeting with his 23-year-old soldier, Jamaal Mellish, in Watertown, New York, near Fort Drum, to do "some type of vehicle exchange" when the meeting escalated.
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Authorities believe Mellish "kidnapped" Harris in Harris' 2017 white Chevrolet Silverado and drove him to the New York City area and eventually across the state, Mueller said. A youth, whose identity was not released, was also in the vehicle, the authorities said.
Mueller said Harris was killed in the wooded area in Byram.
Byram firefighters stumbled upon the scene on Saturday when they noticed personal items near the dead end on Ross Road, including a pair of shoes. They notified the Byram police when they found blood, said Müller.
Mellish was taken into custody in Watertown, Mueller said. He is being held pending an extradition hearing to Sussex County.
News of Harris' disappearance spread on social media after the U.S. Army's Fort Drum & 10th Mountain Division sought help from the public to track down the Tennessee native.
The U.S. Army's Fort Drum & 10th Mountain Division went to Facebook to seek public support in their search for missing soldier Hayden Harris. Harris' body was found in a wooded area in Byram Township on Saturday afternoon.
Harris was posthumously promoted to the rank of non-commissioned officer and received the Army Commendation Medal after his death, Army officials said. A vigil from Harris' unit has been on since he went missing.
Harris joined the Army in March 2019. He arrived at Fort Drum in July 2019 after training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Harris was touted as a "great soldier" by Brig. General Brett Funck, Acting Commander in Chief, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) and Fort Drum.
"As we share our grief with his friends and family, I keep hearing how he was also - and most importantly - a really wonderful, caring person," said Funck. "His death is a tremendous loss to loved ones, this Division and our nation."
Harris' awards and accolades include two Army Achievement Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon. He graduated from Air Assault School in 2019.
Lori Comstock can also be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LoriComstockNJH, or by calling 973-383-1194.
This article originally appeared on the New Jersey Herald: Hayden Harris: U.S. Army Missing Soldier Found Dead in New Jersey
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