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 partially buried under snow in northern New Jersey.
Pvt. Jamaal Mellish 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, the New Jersey Herald reported. Harris’ body was found in Byram Township, according to the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office.
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 was an infantryman with the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, before he joined the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in July 2019. He was promoted from specialist to corporal following his death. His awards and decorations include two Army Achievement Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon. Harris graduated Air Assault School in 2019.
He was last heard from the night of Dec. 17 after he headed from Fort Drum to Watertown to meet fellow soldier Mellish for "some type of vehicle exchange," officials said. Township firefighters discovered Harris with a gunshot wound to his head on Dec. 19, a day after he was reported missing from Fort Drum. Firefighters were on their annual Santa ride through the township when they discovered the scene.
The Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office coordinated with the Army and New York officials to bring charges.
Mellish is being held in military custody in Oneida County, New York. 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.
First Assistant Prosecutor Greg Muller said that Mellish has not yet been extradited and does not have an attorney listed in New Jersey as of Tuesday.