Missing Brockton Soldier Found Dead Near Fort Hood
A young soldier from Brockton who went missing from a Texas army base has been found dead.
The family of Sergeant Elder Fernandes learned Tuesday night that his body had been found hanging from a tree about 25 miles from Fort Hood. The body was found around 5:40 p.m. Central Time by a person walking near the railroad tracks in Temple, Texas. Investigators found a black backpack nearby holding Fernandes' driver's license.
Natalie Khawam, a lawyer who is now representing the Fernandes family, says she and the family will not stop until they find out what happened to Elder. Khawam said there must be a Congressional investigation of Fort Hood, and told reporters she will speak to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. She told the Fort Hood Herald that the culture at Fort Hood seems to promote bullying and harassment of service members who are victims of sexual abuse and harassment.
Fernandes is the 10th soldier to disappear from Fort Hood in one year. Five of those disappearances became unsolved homicides. Fernandes was the second soldier since April to go missing amid allegations of sexual abuse, following 20-year-old PFC Vanessa Guillen.
Fernandes was hospitalized Aug. 11, and his mother last spoke to her son on Aug. 16. Fernandes was discharged from the hospital on the 17th and was not seen since a fellow solider dropped him off at his off-base home. Elder's mother and an aunt were reportedly on their way to Texas to look for him when they received news of his death.
The Army asserts that there is no connection between Fernandes' death and other disappearances.“We continue to believe Sgt. Fernandes left on his own accord and there is no connection between his disappearance and any other ongoing cases at Fort Hood,” officials said in a statement posted to Facebook
Elder Fernandes was a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist who enlisted in the Army in 2016. His father is a police officer who lives in Cape Verde, where Elder was born, the Boston Globe reports.
The 1st Calvary Division confirmed there is an open investigation of “abusive sexual contact” involving Elder Fernandes. According to Khawam, a sexually abusive staff sergeant had been following and harassing Fernandes and he was the subject of bullying from his superiors and fellow soldiers at the army base.