NEWTON, NJ (Sussex County) – A Fort Drum soldier and a 16-year-old boy have been formally charged with murder and weapons charges in connection with the alleged killing of Corporal Hayden Harris, who’s body was discovered in a wooded area adjacent to 30 Ross Road in Byram Township, according to Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch.
Specialist Jamaal Mellish, 23, of Brooklyn, NY and the 16-year-old boy, whose name was not released, were charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree felony murder, second-degree possession of a handgun without first having obtained a permit to carry, and second-degree possession of a firearm. Mellish was also charged with third-degree suppression of evidence, Koch said.
Harris, who was assigned to C Troop, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Drum, was reportedly last heard from between 8:00 p.m. Dec. 17 and 6:30 a.m. Dec. 18, Fort Drum officials said.
Then on Dec.19, members of the Byram Township Fire Department were conducting their annual Santa ride around the Township and when turning around in the cul-de-sac at the end of Ross Road, firefighters noticed debris alongside the roadway including an umbrella, sneakers and a disposable food container, police said.
The top of the snow was stained with what appeared to be blood and then the Fire Chief notified Byram Twp. Police Department to further investigate, police said.
An investigation revealed paperwork with Harris’s and Mellish’s names on it from a previous vehicle transaction. During a search of the disturbed area in the snow, Harris’s body was found at around 3:15 p.m. approximately 200 yards into the wooded area mostly buried under snow, authorities said.
Investigators from the Jefferson County Sheriff Department and the US Army were contacted and it was determined that they had a person in custody who was charged in the disappearance of Harris and was being held, police said.
During their investigation it was determined that Mellish, and Harris were going to meet for a vehicle transaction. Mellish was supposed to exchange a Ford Mustang with Harris for a Chevy pickup truck, police said.
Mellish is currently being held in military custody under pretrial confinement in Oneida County, NY and the juvenile is in custody in a juvenile detention facility, Koch said.
The arrest of the two suspects involved a collaborative effort by the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Byram Police Department, the New Jersey State Police, the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate of the 10th Mountain Division, U.S. Army, Fort Drum, NY; U.S. Army CID at Ft. Drum, NY; the Jefferson County, NY, District Attorney’s Office, Watertown, NY; the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Watertown NY, and the New York City Police Department, Department of Investigations Squad.
This investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact Lt. Nicholas Elmo at the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office 973-383-1570 or Det. Robert Tierney at the Byram Township Police Department at 973-347-4008.