A 20-year-old soldier from Tennessee who went missing from New York state's Fort Drum was found shot to death in New Jersey, authorities said Monday -- and they're holding a U.S. Army soldier in connection with his death.
Hayden Harris, of Guys, Tennessee, was last heard from Thursday night after he headed from Fort Drum to Watertown to meet a fellow soldier, Jamaal Mellish, for "some type of vehicle exchange," officials said. Police said Mellish was supposed to exchange a Ford Mustang with Harris for a Chevrolet pickup truck. Authorities believe Mellish "abducted" Harris and killed him, First Assistant Sussex County Prosecutor Gregory Mueller said.
Harris' body was found with gunshot wounds about 200 feet in a wooded area off a cul-de-sac in Byram Township Saturday afternoon. While on their annual Santa ride in the township, members of the town's fire department went to turn around on the street when they saw debris on the roadside, including an umbrella, sneakers and a disposable food container, as well as snow that was stained with what appeared to be blood, according to Byram Township police.
The firefighters had police come take a look, with Harris' body being found mostly buried under snow during a search of the area. Police said an investigation revealed paperwork with Harris' and Mellish's names on it from the vehicle exchange.
Mellish, 23, is being held in New York and faces kidnapping charges. Attorney information for him wasn't clear. Police said there was also a juvenile involved with the disappearance, but no further information would be released regarding the minor during the investigation.
Harris, an infantryman with the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, before he joined the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in July 2019.
"His death is a tremendous loss for his loved ones, this division and our nation,” Brigadier Gen. Brett Funck, acting commander for Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division, said in a statement.
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Harris 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. He graduated Air Assault School in 2019.