Update: On Tuesday night, the family of Sgt. Elder Fernandes was informed that his body was found hanging from a tree 25 miles from Fort Hood in Texas. Fernandes disappeared one week ago and an investigation into his death is still underway. “We are sickened by this tragedy that has happened one too many times. We are heartbroken for Elder Fernandes’s family,” Natalie Khawam, the family's lawyer, said to the Boston Globe.
This story was originally published on August 21, 2020.
Police are searching for yet another missing Fort Hood soldier, according to multiple reports on Friday. This comes after multiple missing cases just this year, with eight soldiers who have died on or surrounding Fort Hood in 2020. Five of the eight deaths were publicly linked to foul play, including the recently found remains of Vanessa Guillén.
23-year-old Sergeant Elder Fernandes is the latest missing solider, and was last seen being dropped off at his residence in Killeen, Texas on Monday, August 17, according to his family. They haven’t heard from him since, and reported him missing on Wednesday.
An official news release from Fort Hood says that officials at the base have already started searching for Fernandes. "We have completed a search of the entire division area, to include motorpools, parking lots, and headquarters buildings and the unit is in contact with the Soldiers Family, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and civilian law enforcement agencies to help find him as we continue our search," the release reads.
Fernandes is assigned to the First Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade where he works as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist. According to the press release from the Killeen Police Department (KPD, Fernandes was last seen wearing black Army shorts and a shirt with red athletic shoes. It also details that Fernandes is approximately 5’4” weighs approximately 133 pounds. But an early investigation — including statements from his family — already indicate some possible irregularities in his disappearance.
"This is very, very unusual. He has been in touch with us since last week. I personally spoke to him Friday morning. He spoke with his mom this past Sunday and he promised he would call on Monday," his aunt, Isabel Fernandes told ABC13. “Monday came and went and he didn't call, and he didn't answer calls from anyone else. Tuesday, no calls and my sister ended up flying down there yesterday, and still we haven't heard from him.” According to his aunt, his mother has traveled to Fort Hood to work with Army officials and search for her son.
This case follows Vanessa Guillén's death, which prompted army officials to open an investigation into Fort Hood for having the highest cases of soldier murders and assaults. After Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy visited the base in early August, he pledged to investigate and address the “root causes” of violence, deaths, and disappearances at Fort Hood, calling recent violence a tipping point.
So far, there are no leads in Fernandes' disappearance, though the division has also posted on Twitter asking for help in finding the sergeant. Anyone with information on his location is urged to contact the Fort Hood Military Police at 254-288-1170 or U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Department at 254-287-2722.