BYRAM, N.J. (AP) — Authorities are holding a U.S. Army soldier in the death of a fellow soldier from Tennessee who was found shot to death in New Jersey after he was missing from a base in upstate New York.
Authorities found the body of 20-year-old Cpl. Hayden Harris in a wooded area of Byram Township on Saturday. Harris was from Guys, Tennessee, in McNairy County about 100 miles east of Memphis.
Family and friends say they are in shock.
“He was excited that he was about to go to sniper school, and he was just having a good time. And it was really good to see him and have a good conversation with him while he was here,” said Wes Moore, a McNairy County Deputy and friend of Hayden Harris.
Moore was school resource officer at McNairy Central High School where Harris graduated in 2018.
Moore, who was Harris’ youth pastor, remembers Harris as being a good student and active in sports and who just loved to sit and talk.
“Over the years we grew a great relationship where we’d just sit and just talk and just have great times of communication for many hours at a time,” Moore said.
As mentioned, Harris’s life and a promising military career were cut short just days before Christmas after he was found shot to death in Upstate New York. Investigators say Harris was supposed to meet a fellow soldier for “some type of vehicle exchange,” but it’s believed he was abducted and killed by the soldier he was supposed to meet.
The Army says that was last heard from Thursday night after he headed from Fort Drum to Watertown, New York, for a vehicle transaction.
First Assistant Sussex County Prosecutor Gregory Mueller says Harris was meeting fellow soldier, 23-year-old Jamaal Mellish, for “some type of vehicle exchange.” Mueller says authorities believe Mellish “abducted” Harris and killed him.
Mellish was held in New York and charges were pending.
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 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.
He was promoted from specialist to corporal following his death.
- In 3-week isolation, unvaccinated athlete waits for Olympics
- Ida B. Wells doll added to Barbie’s Inspiring Women Series
- Titans add Henry to playoff roster ahead of Bengals game
- TN lawmaker proposes later school start times, free meals for students to ensure better academic performance
- President Biden touts Intel $20B investment for domestic semiconductor factories