The body of a missing New York-based Army soldier from Tennessee was found shot to death this weekend in New Jersey, police say.
Corporal Hayden Harris, 20, was a Fort Drum soldier who was reported missing last week, according to the New Jersey Byram Township Police Department. The Tennessee native was last heard from between the evening of December 17 and the following early morning, the Department wrote on Facebook on December 21. Byram Township police later found his body on Saturday, December 19, in a wooded area in Sussex County, the Department stated.
“It was well known here that Corporal Harris was a great soldier,” Brigadier General Brett Funck, acting senior commander, 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum, said in a statement.
“As 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. His death is a tremendous loss for his loved ones, this division and our nation.”
Jamaal Mellish, a fellow Fort Drum soldier, is currently awaiting formal charges in Watertown, New York in connection to Harris’ death, Byram Township police continued on Facebook.
According to police, the two were meeting in Watertown for a “vehicle transaction” prior to the 20-year-old’s death.
“Mellish was supposed to exchange a Ford Mustang with Harris for a Chevy pickup truck. Mellish is also a US Army soldier and had a previous transaction with Harris,” Byram Township police wrote.
Pending an extradition hearing to New Jersey, it is unclear whether Mellish has obtained an attorney.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Byram Township Fire Department Found Harris’ Body During an Annual Santa Ride
According to the Byram Township Police Department’s Facebook, local firefighters discovered Harris’ body while “conducting their annual Santa ride around the Township.”
Members of the Byram Township fire department noticed a pair of shoes, paperwork and blood while turning around in a cul-de-sac, police said in the Facebook statement, writing:
The Fire Department was turning around in the cul-de-sac at the end of Ross Rd. when they noticed debris alongside the roadway including an umbrella, sneakers and a disposable food container. The top of the snow was stained with what appeared to be blood. The Fire Chief notified Byram Twp. Police Department. Sgt Dellicker, Ptl. Sodano and Ptl. Spaldo arrived in the area to further investigate.
Further investigation revealed paperwork with the victim and the accused name on it from a previous vehicle transaction. During a search of the disturbed area in the snow, the victim’s body was found approximately 200 yards into the wooded area mostly buried under snow. During the investigation it was discovered that the victim, Hayden Harris, was reported as a missing soldier from Fort Drum, NY.
Harris Was a Tennessee Native and Joined the Army in March 2019
According to a Fort Drum & 10th Mountain Division press release, Harris hailed from Guys, Tennessee and joined the Army in March 2019.
“After training at Fort Benning, Georgia, he arrived to Fort Drum in New York, in July 2019,” the release said.
Harris earned two Army Achievement Medals, the National Defense Service Medial, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon, the statement continued. He also graduated from Air Assault School in 2019.
Leaving behind his mother, father and sister, Harris has been “posthumously promoted to the rank of Corporal and awarded the Army Commendation Medal,” the press release said.