Former soldier faces more charges in murder case

Cpl. Hayden A. Harris Provided photo

FORT DRUM — A former Fort Drum soldier who allegedly shot a fellow serviceman to death in northern New Jersey last December probably won’t stand trail until next year.

The accused shooter, Pvt. Jamaal Mellish, 23, pleaded not guilty via video on Thursday before Judge Louis Sceusi on Thursday.

Mellish was formally indicted last week on 11 charges, when a grand jury came back with five additional charges against him, Sussex County Assistant Prosecutor Sahil Kabse said.

He now also faces charges of conspiracy, carjacking, kidnapping and two felony murder charges for allegedly committing the carjacking and kidnapping in the course of the murder.

He and a 16-year-old boy are accused in the Dec. 18 shooting death of Cpl. Hayden A. Harris, 20, in Byram Township, N.J., after the soldiers had apparently argued about swapping vehicles.

On Thursday, Mr. Kabse and Mellish’s attorney, Brian D. Kenney, completed oral arguments on whether Mellish should remain in custody. Mr. Kenney is arguing for his client to be released.

The judge ordered Mellish to remain in jail, with the next hearing scheduled for Aug. 18.

The 16-year-old boy, the brother of Mellish’s girlfriend, should know in a month or so whether he will be tried as an adult.

The boy allegedly pointed a gun at the victim’s head while he and Mellish drove him more than four hours to a wooded area in northern New Jersey before the victim was shot in the head.

In December, Byram police said the teen was a local boy who lived in the Watertown area before he was charged in the corporal’s murder.

The teen gave a statement to police pointing out that Mellish was the killer.

The boy, who also faces a murder charge, was charged as a juvenile and his case is in Family Court. He remains in a detention center in Morris County, New Jersey.

Mr. Scabse doesn’t expect the trial to begin this year, although New Jersey courts are opening up for trials, he said.

Fort Drum reported Cpl. Harris missing on Dec. 17 and his body was discovered the next day.

A motive remains unclear.

Mellish faces first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree kidnapping resulting in death, second-degree unlawful possession of weapons involving a handgun, second-degree possession of weapons for unlawful purposes and third-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution involving concealment/destruction of evidence.

The teen faces first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and weapons charges.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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