Elder Fernandes, the 23-year-old army Sergeant who was reported missing from the Fort Hood army base last week, has been found dead, his family confirmed on Tuesday. A lawyer representing the Fernandes family said that that the young soldier's body was found hanging from a tree about 25 miles from the Texas army base.
An individual walking along a railroad track in Temple, Texas, spotted the body at around 5:40 p.m. on Tuesday and was identified by his driver's license that was found in a backpack lying nearby, said Natalie Khawam, the family's lawyer.
Sexual Abuse by Senior Officer
Fernandes was reported missing by Killeen and U.S. Army police on Aug. 19 after he was last seen on Aug. 17. Fort Hood said in a statement over the weekend that Fernandes had reported sexual abuse by a senior officer and was reassigned to a new unit within his brigade for his safety and steps were taken to shield him from retribution.
Earlier on Tuesday, just hours before her son's body was found, Ailina Fernandes revealed in an exclusive interview with The Boston Globe that she knew Elder was hospitalized on Aug 11 but did not know the reason behind his hospitalization. She said she last spoke to him on Aug. 16.
When she didn't hear from him after that, she called the base and found that he had been discharged from the hospital on the 17th and hadn't been seen since a staff sergeant dropped him off at his off-base home. His car and personal belongings.
'Our Worst Nightmare'
"Our worst nightmare has happened. One of our own, Sergeant Elder Fernandes has been found dead today," Khawam said in a statement late Tuesday night. "We are sickened by this tragedy that has happened one too many times. We are heartbroken for Elder Fernandes's family."
"We will not stop until we find out what happened to Elder," the statement said. "We must demand a Congressional Investigation of Ft. Hood. We must protect our soldiers!"
10 Fort Hood Soldiers Dead Since March
Besides Fernandes, at least 9 soldiers stationed at Fort Hood have died or been found dead on or near the Killeen, Texas base since March.
Among them is Vanessa Guillen, another Fort Hood soldier, who went missing from the post in April. She was later found dead, murdered by a fellow soldier who killed himself after being confronted by police on the day the 20-year-old's dismembered remains were found. A 22-year-old woman was charged with helping the soldier dispose of Guillen's body.
Guillén's family also said she was sexually harassed by the soldier suspected of killing her, but the Army has said there was no evidence to support that claim. The investigation is still ongoing.
In June, the skeletal remains of Pvt Gregory Morales, who reportedly went missing in August last year, were found in the Stillhouse Hollow Lake. The U.S. Army officials found the body of another solider Mejhor Morta, lying near the same lake on July 17. He was reported missing a day ago.
Another solider, Brandon Rosecrans, 27, was found dead with a gun-shot wound on May 18. His burnt jeep was found parked next to his body. Last week, Last week, a 22-year-old soldier, Cole Jakob Aton, 22, died from injuries while helping out at an accident site in Killeen.
Other fatalities include 23-year-old Freddy Delacruz Jr. who was found dead with two others at an apartment complex on March 14. All three victims had suffered gunshot wounds. Christopher Sawyer, 29, was found unresponsive on March 5 in his residence on Fort Hood, according to a statement released by the base. Lastly, Shelby Jones, 20, died on March 1 after being shot at a club in south Killeen.