Aug. 26 (UPI) — Authorities have found the body of an Army solider who disappeared from Fort Hood in Texas more than a week ago.
Police in Temple, Texas, said they identified the body of Sgt. Elder Fernandes near a railroad line on Tuesday. Fernandes, 23, was a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade at Fort Hood. He was last seen alive Aug. 17.
Authorities said the condition of Fernandes’ body indicated he’d been dead “for some period of time.” There was no indication of foul play, they added.
An attorney for Fernandes’ family said the missing soldier was found hanging in a tree.
“Our worst nightmare has happened,” Natalie Khawam said. “We are sickened by this tragedy that has happened one too many times. We are heartbroken for Elder Fernandes’ family.”
Before his disappearance and death, Fernandes reported an “incident of abusive sexual contact” that is now under investigation at the base, 1st Cavalry Division spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Brautigam said.
A native of Brockton, Mass., Fernandes is the fourth service member at Fort Hood to die over the past year, raising questions about conditions at the base.
Khawam said the family is demanding that the base be investigated.
“We will not stop until we find out what happened to Elder,” she said. “We demand a congressional Investigation of Ft. Hood. We must protect our soldiers! We demand Justice for Elder.”
Officials suspect foul play in the death of Pvt. Gregory Wedel-Morales, who went missing Aug. 19, 2019, and was found dead in June.
The remains of Spc. Vanessa Guillen were identified in July after weeks of searching. The Army said it’s possible Guillen had been sexually harassed before her death. The Army Criminal Investigation Command identified Spc. Aaron David Robinson as a suspect in the case, but he died by suicide in the early stages of the investigation.
The body of Pvt. Mejhor Morta, 26, was also found in July near a lake about 15 miles from the base. Preliminary autopsy results showed Morta may have drowned.