Army specialist and teenager charged with kidnapping, killing 20-year-old soldier


Two people, including a fellow soldier, have been charged with killing a U.S. Army soldier whose body was discovered in Sussex County, N.J., this month, authorities said.

Specialist Jamaal Mellish, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and a 16-year-old male whose name was not released were charged with kidnapping and killing 20-year-old Cpl. Hayden Harris, the Sussex County prosecutor’s office announced Monday.

Cpl. Hayden Harris

Harris, who was assigned to Fort Drum in upstate New York, was found shot to death on Dec. 19 in a wooded area near Ross Road in Byram Township, Sussex County First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller said earlier this month.

Harris was last heard from between 8 p.m. on Dec. 17 and 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 18, according to Syracuse.com.

Harris was headed to Watertown, New York — the largest city near the Army base — “for some type of vehicle transaction and has not been seen since,” the publication reported. He was driving a red 2016 Ford Mustang with Tennessee license plates, from his home state, Army officials said in Facebook posts.

On Dec. 19, members of the Byram Township Fire Department were doing work on Ross Road when they spotted a pair of shoes, paperwork and blood, and contacted police. Responding officers found Harris in a nearby wooded area, Mueller has said.

At the time, Mueller said a suspect in Harris’ killing was being held in New York State on charges related to the soldier’s disappearance. The suspect was not publicly named until Monday.

Harris, of Guys, Tenn., was a 2018 graduate of McNairy Central High School there. He joined the Army in March 2019 and arrived at Fort Drum four months later.

Fort Drum is home to the 10th Mountain Division. Harris was an infantryman in the 89th Cavalry regiment of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Following his death, he was promoted from specialist to corporal.

Mellish was charged with kidnapping, felony murder, suppressing and weapons related-offenses while the teen was charged with felony murder, kidnapping and weapons-related offenses, the office said.

Mellish was being held in military custody under pretrial confinement in Oneida County, New York, and the juvenile was in custody at a juvenile detention facility, officials said.

Authorities have not said what the motive was for the alleged kidnapping and killing.

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