• Wed. Jan 20th, 2021

Body of missing Fort Hood soldier ‘found hanging from a tree’ after he alleged sexual abuse at base – Daily Mail

The body of a missing Fort Hood soldier is believed to have been found 30 miles from the Texas base where he was stationed, police said yesterday.

Identification found with the body in Temple, Texas, indicates the man may be Sgt. Elder Fernandes, officials said. Forensic confirmation is pending. 

Fernandes, 23, was reported missing on August 19. Killeen police said he had not been seen since August 17 when his staff sergeant dropped him off at home. 

Fort Hood public affairs officer Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam later confirmed Fernandes had reported sexual abuse before his disappearance and was transferred to another unit, ‘to ensure he received the proper care and ensure there were no opportunities for reprisals.’

The disappearance of Fernandes shed light on the string of tragedies and deaths that have plagued the Texas Army base; 15 other soldiers connected to Fort Hood have been found dead this year alone; foul play is suspected in five of them.  

This photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Elder Fernandes. The body of missing Fort Hood soldier Sgt. Fernandes is believes to have been found around 30 miles from Fort Hood in Texas

This photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Elder Fernandes. The body of missing Fort Hood soldier Sgt. Fernandes is believes to have been found around 30 miles from Fort Hood in Texas 

Fernandes was last seen on Monday afternoon when his staff sergeant dropped him off at his home in Killeen - just four miles from the Fort Hood base

Fernandes was a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with the 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade at the Central Texas Army installation

Fernandes was last seen on Monday afternoon when his staff sergeant dropped him off at his home in Killeen – just four miles from the Fort Hood base

Fernandes was discharged from a hospital on August 17 and was dropped off at this address in Killeen, Texas, where family said he previously lived

Fernandes was discharged from a hospital on August 17 and was dropped off at this address in Killeen, Texas, where family said he previously lived 

Timeline of Fort Hood disappearances/deaths

February 1, 2020: PVT Eric Christopher Hogan and PFC Anthony Nevelle Peak Jr. die in a car crash 

March 1, 2020: SPC Shelby Tyler Jones is shot dead at a convenience store in Killeen 

March 5, 2020: Spc. Christopher Wayne Sawyer found dead at his home. Foul play is not suspected.  

March 14, 2020: SPC Freddy Beningo Delacruz Jr. is killed in a triple murder

March 23, 2020: Fort Hood soldier Spc. Jovino Jamel Roy, 22, was charged with murder after allegedly shooting former Fort Hood soldier Michael Steven Wardrobe, 22 

April 22, 2020: Vanessa Guillen goes missing and is last seen in the parking lot of the base. She disappeared after telling her family she was being sexually harassed by a sergeant on the base.

May 18, 2020: Body of Army Pfc. Brandon S. Rosecrans, 27, was discovered with gunshot wounds and his Jeep was found three miles away engulfed in flames.

June 19, 2020: Search teams discover the corpse of missing soldier Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales following a tip to Army base investigators. Remains were found in a field in Killeen, just over 10 miles from Stillhouse Hollow Lake, five miles from Fort Hood.

July 1, 2020: First parts of Giullen’s remains found about 20 miles east of Fort Hood.

Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, kills himself. Officials say he killed and dismembered Guillén and had the remains disposed of. 

July 17, 2020:  Pvt. Mejhor Morta, 26, of Pensacola, Florida was found dead July 17 in the vicinity of Stillhouse Hollow Lake, around 15 miles from the Fort Hood base.

August 2, 2020:  The body of Spc. Francisco Gilberto Hernandezvargas, 24, is recovered from Stillhouse Hollow Lake following boating incident not far from where Morta was found.

August 12, 2020: Spc. Cole Jakob Aton, 22, of Kentucky died after he was hit by a car as he was assisting a minor accident scene 

August 13, 2020: National Guard soldier, Sgt Bradley Moore dies during a training exercise at the base 

August 19, 2020: Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, is reported missing after he was last seen on August 17.

August 26, 2020: The body of Fernandes is believed to have been found about 30 miles from Fort Hood .

Advertisement

Temple police received a medical call at 5.36pm saying a male had been seen near some railroad tracks, according to the statement. When officers arrived, they determined the man was dead. 

Fernandes’ backpack was with him and police found the 23-year-old man’s driver’s license inside. 

Foul play is not suspected, police said, but the investigation is ongoing. An autopsy has been ordered.

‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the Fernandes family during this challenging time,’ Temple Police Chief Shawn Reynolds said.

Natalie Khawam, who is representing the Fernandes family, said Army police told family members about the discovery late last night. She said the body was found hanging in a tree.   

Fort Hood officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The Army and the Fernandes family, from Massachusetts, had asked the public for help in finding the missing soldier. 

Fernandes’ older brother, Elton, told ABC News that his sibling had confided in him a month ago that the abuse consisted of another man grabbing his buttocks, but he reassured Elton that he was ‘taking care of it.’

Khawam, a lawyer representing the family of Vanessa Guillen, another Fort Hood soldier who went missing and was found dead, and now the Fernandes family, told ABC News that Elder got ‘very, very depressed’ after being sexually harassed while working in a supply room in April.   

‘I am saddened that another soldier who served the country has been destroyed by sexual assault and sexual harassment and this toxic culture in the military that exists,’ Khawam added.  

Fernandes was admitted to an on-base hospital on August 11 for an unspecified reason. He remained there until August 17, which marked the last time he was seen by anyone.   

His mother and aunt told ABC News that they spoke to him several times during his hospitalization, including on the eve of his last sighting, but he was vague as to his condition.

‘Finding Sgt Elder Fernandes safe and resuming the care he was receiving before his recent absence remains the top priority of the 1st Cavalry Division,’ the unit’s statement from Sunday read. 

According to the release, soldiers from Fernandes’ unit have spent the past week thoroughly searching parking lots, barracks and buildings on the base.

‘Additionally, soldiers have visited local hotels and hospitals throughout central Texas and continue to expand their search efforts,’ the statement read. 

Police said Fernandes was last seen Monday when his staff sergeant dropped him off at his home in Killeen.

But his aunt, Isabel Fernandes, said that is not her nephew’s current address. His former roommate at the residence reportedly told the family he had not lived there for some time, and he never entered the home on Monday.    

Fernandes’ disappearance comes a year after the disappearance of Pfc. Gregory Morales, 24, a Fort Hood soldier who was reported missing on August 20, 2019. 

His remains were found June 21 in a field in Killeen, near Fort Hood. Killeen police and Army officials are still investigating his death and foul play is suspected. 

Fort Hood soldier, Pfc. Gregory Morales, was reported missing from the base a year ago on August 20, 2019. The 24-year-old's remains were found on June 21 in a field in Killeen

On July 1, Army officials found human remains that were later identified as those 20-year-old Pfc. Vanessa Guillén - a Fort Hood soldier who had been missing since April

Fort Hood soldier, Pfc. Gregory Morales (left), was reported missing from the base a year ago on August 20, 2019. The 24-year-old’s remains were found on June 21 in a field in Killeen. Then on July 1, Army officials found human remains that were later identified as those 20-year-old Pfc. Vanessa Guillén (right) – a Fort Hood soldier who had been missing since April

His disappearance follows the deaths of 11 Fort Hood soldiers this year alone. Of the 11 deaths, foul play is suspected in five of those. An independent investigation is currently underway into the embattled army base (above) following the string of deaths and disappearance

His disappearance follows the deaths of 11 Fort Hood soldiers this year alone. Of the 11 deaths, foul play is suspected in five of those. An independent investigation is currently underway into the embattled army base (above) following the string of deaths and disappearance

Vanessa Guillén´s body was found a week later in July after her disappearance in April.  

Fellow soldier Spc. Aaron Robinson, 20, killed and dismembered Guillén and had the remains disposed of in nearby woods, federal and state investigators said.  

Robinson killed himself July 1, the day Guillén’s remains were found, officials said. 

Cecily Aguilar, 22, of Killeen, has been accused of disposing of Guillén’s remains for Robinson and has been charged with three federal conspiracy counts related to the soldier’s death. 

She has pleaded not guilty.

Guillén´s family has said she was sexually harassed by the soldier suspected of killing her, but the Army has said there is no evidence to support that. There is an ongoing investigation.  

The other soldiers to have died this year include: Pvt. Mejhor Morta; Spc. Francisco Gilberto Hernandezvargas; Pfc. Brandon Scott Rosecrans; Spc. Freddy Delacruz Jr; Spc. Christopher Wayne Sawyer; and Spc. Shelby Tyler Jones. 

The two most recent deaths linked to the base include Sgt. Bradley Moore, 36, who died at the base during a training exercise last week. He was with the Texas Army National Guard.  

Spc. Cole Jakob Aton, 22, was also killed last week while assisting at the scene of a car accident near the base. He had been standing on the road trying to direct traffic around the crash when he was hit by a car. 

Aton had previously shared petitions and posts on social media demanding answers into the deaths and disappearances at the Fort Hood base.   

Inside embattled Fort Hood: Two bloody rampages that killed 16, at least 15 soldiers found dead this year and two arrested in a child prostitution sting

The death of yet another Fort Hood soldier this week has shed light on the string of tragedies and deaths that have plagued the embattled US Army base in Texas in the last decade alone. 

Two bloody rampages have left 16 people dead, at least 15 soldiers have died or been found dead this year and two were arrested this month in a child prostitution sting.

The string of disappearances and deaths involving Fort Hood soldiers led the US Army Secretary to launch an investigation into the base last month.

There has been a spate of disappearances, death and accidents at Fort Hood in Texas in recent years, including suspected murders

There has been a spate of disappearances, death and accidents at Fort Hood in Texas in recent years, including suspected murders

Anthony Xavier Antwon

Timmy Jones Jr.

Two Fort Hood soldiers were among the nine people arrested earlier this month in a massive child prostitution sting. Anthony Xavier Antwon, 25, (left) and Timmy Jones Jr., 30, (right) were allegedly caught trying to pay minors for sex over social media

At the time, Secretary Ryan McCarthy said that Fort Hood had one of the highest rates of murder, sexual assault and harassment in the Army.  

The most notorious of those cases was the disappearance of 20-year-old soldier Vanessa Guillen in April. She vanished soon after reporting she was being sexually harassed at the base. 

Prior to her disappearance, Fort Hood soldier, Pfc. Gregory Morales, was reported missing from the base a year ago on August 20, 2019.  

Meanwhile, two Fort Hood soldiers were among the nine people arrested earlier this month in a massive child prostitution sting. 

Anthony Xavier Antwon, 25, and Timmy Jones Jr., 30, were allegedly caught trying to pay minors for sex over social media. 

They are accused of contacting police posing as 15 and 16-year-old girls on social media and arranging to meet them for sex. 

Police allege the men were willing to pay the girls in cash, drugs or alcohol.

They were arrested when they arrived at the arranged locations to meet who they thought were the underage girls. 

Fort Hood has also been linked to two shooting massacres involving a soldier and a military psychiatrist. 

Back in April 2014, Iraq war veteran Spc. Ivan Lopez opened fire at the base killing three and wounding 16 others. 

He then shot himself dead. 

Back in April 2014, Iraq war veteran Spc. Ivan Lopez opened fire at the base killing three and wounding 16 others. He then shot himself dead

Back in April 2014, Iraq war veteran Spc. Ivan Lopez opened fire at the base killing three and wounding 16 others. He then shot himself dead

Authorities, at the time, had suggested that Lopez had gotten into a verbal altercation with soldier in his unit just prior to him opening fire. 

Five years earlier, psychiatrist Nidal Hasan slaughtered 13 of his comrades, as well as an unborn child, at the army base in 2009 in the name of Islam. The shooting massacre left 32 others injured.

He remains in prison on death row where he has been fighting his conviction. 

The string of tragedies at Fort Hood resulted in Secretary Ryan McCarthy launching an independent investigation into the base to determine if leadership failures have contributed to the deaths and disappearances of the soldiers.

Army leaders have delayed the planned transfer of Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, the Fort Hood commander, to a more prestigious assignment at Fort Bliss, Texas, while the investigation is carried out. 

Five civilian experts have already been sworn in for the investigation to assess command culture to ‘root out’ why there’s been such high cases of violence, deaths, and disappearances.

Those review results will be released in October. 

The review was prompted by the slaying of Guillen. 

McCarthy noted that her death has become catalyst for the Army in highlighting issues of sexual harassment and assault in the military. 

‘I am markedly disappointed and saddened by one of our own killing a teammate,’ McCarthy said last month. 

‘It takes a shot at the system and it rattles the system of the trust that you have to have in this profession.’  

McCarthy said the review of Fort Hood will examine claims and historical data of discrimination, harassment and assault.

Nidal Hasan remains in prison on death row where he has been fighting his conviction ever since the shooting massacre

Nidal Hasan remains in prison on death row where he has been fighting his conviction ever since the shooting massacre

Nidal Hasan remains in prison on death row where he has been fighting his conviction ever since the shooting massacre

He also said he is in discussions about the language of a bill that is set to be introduced before Congress that seeks to address reporting mechanisms for sexual assault and harassment in the military.

‘One harassment and one assault is one too many,’ McCarthy said.

McCarthy said he conducted nine listening sessions and had candid conversations with Fort Hood soldiers of every echelon this week to understand the culture on and off the base. 

He said investigators will be conducting a full independent review to understand why Fort Hood has seen a rise in felonies and violent crimes.

Advertisement

Meanwhile, two Fort Hood soldiers were among the nine people arrested earlier this month in a massive child prostitution sting. 

Anthony Xavier Antwon, 25, and Timmy Jones Jr., 30, were allegedly caught trying to pay minors for sex over social media. 

They are accused of contacting police posing as 15 and 16-year-old girls on social media and arranging to meet them for sex. 

Police allege the men were willing to pay the girls in cash, drugs or alcohol.

They were arrested when they arrived at the arranged locations to meet who they thought were the underage girls.       

U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in a visit to Fort Hood earlier this month that the Central Texas base had some of the highest numbers of sexual assault, harassment and murder. 

He ordered an independent probe of Fort Hood in July, after authorities said Guillen was slain.