BYRAM, N.J. — A U.S. Army soldier who went missing from Fort Drum in upstate New York has been found dead in New Jersey and a fellow soldier has been taken into custody in connection with his death.
The body of Hayden Harris was found in a wooded area in Byram Township on Saturday afternoon, Sussex County First Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Mueller said. U.S. Army officials gave little detail beyond confirming Harris’ death in a press release on Sunday afternoon.
Harris was last seen between 8 p.m. Dec. 17 and 6:30 a.m. Dec. 18, according to Army officials.
Mueller said Harris was meeting with fellow soldier, Jamaal Mellish, 23, in Watertown, New York, near Fort Drum for “some type of vehicle exchange” when the meeting escalated.
Authorities believe Mellish “abducted” Harris in Harris’ 2017 white Chevrolet Silverado and drove him to the New York City area and eventually across the state, Mueller said. A juvenile, whose identity has not been released, was also in the vehicle, authorities said.
Mueller said Harris was killed in the wooded area in Byram.
Byram firefighters stumbled upon the scene Saturday when they noticed personal belongings near the Ross Road cul-de-sac, including a pair of shoes. They notified Byram police when they found blood, Mueller said.
Mellish was taken into custody in Watertown, Mueller said. He is being held awaiting an extradition hearing to Sussex County.
The news of Harris’ disappearance spread on social media after the U.S. Army Fort Drum & 10th Mountain Division sought the public’s assistance tracking down the Tennessee native.
Harris was posthumously promoted to the rank of corporal following his death and awarded the Army Commendation Medal, Army officials said. A vigil by Harris’ unit had been ongoing since he went missing.
Harris joined the Army in March 2019. He arrived in Fort Drum in July 2019 after training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Harris was touted as a “great soldier” by Brig. Gen. Brett Funck, acting senior commander of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) and Fort Drum.
“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,” Funck said. “His death is a tremendous loss for his loved ones, this Division and our nation.”
Harris’ 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.
Lori Comstock can also be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LoriComstockNJH or by phone: 973-383-1194.
This article originally appeared on New Jersey Herald: Hayden Harris: Missing US Army soldier found dead in New Jersey